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Wisconsin races heat up, loom large for unions

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 5/30/2012, 6:43 p.m.

As the presidential season closes in on the nation, residents of Wisconsin have an unexpected decision of their own to make, as they decide whether to dump or keep their current governor in a rare recall race next week.

Gov. Scott Walker finds himself at the center of a recall election scheduled for June 5 after state Democrats collected over 1 million signatures to force the event. Walker will face off against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the election.

Some pundits have cited the recall election as a referendum on Walker's push to curtail collective bargaining rights for public workers, which he and his Republican-controlled Legislature have advocated for since he took office last year.

While many believe that as Wisconsin goes, so goes the rest of the country, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz doesn't see it that way. She was interviewed on the C-SPAN show "Newsmakers," which aired last Sunday.

"I think, honestly, there aren't going to be any repercussions," said Schultz. "It's an election that's based in Wisconsin. It's an election that I think is important nationally because Scott Walker is an example of how extreme the Tea Party has been when it comes to the policies that they have pushed the Republicans to adopt. But I think it'll be, at the end of the day, a Wisconsin-based election and, like I said, across the rest of the country and including in Wisconsin, President Obama is ahead."

Walker has faced a barrage of criticism and has kept a relatively low profile in the state while traveling across the country collecting checks from conservative allies nationwide. But the embattled governor did have this to say to Politico in a recent interview.

"On the weekends, we go to [headquarters] just to get out the volunteers and go by and try to thank them," Walker said of his supporters. "Throughout the campaign, I've been at farms, I've been at factories, I've been at small businesses. Most of the factories I go to, it's all the employees, they don't distinguish who may or may not be a supporter."

But the governor's race isn't the only thing on the menu for Wisconsin citizens. Despite the fact that the legislative session is over in Wisconsin, if Democrats can flip one of the four Republican seats that are up for grabs in other recall races, they'll take control of the state Senate. Republican State Sens. Van Wanggaard, Terry Moulton, Scott Fitzgerald and Republican candidate Jerry Petrowski are battling Democrats John Lehman, Kristen Dexter, Lori Compas and Donna Seidel, respectively, in the recall elections.