Recalling the Morning After
It was a long night at the Sheraton Hotel in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, where Representative Sandy Pasch was holding her election night party. It was meant to be a victory celebration.
It was supposed to be the night Democrats would win three of six seats in a recall election, and thus flip the state senate control away from the GOP. Pasch was trying to unseat Republican Senator Alberta Darling in the Eighth District, a suburban area north of Milwaukee.
Darling, a twenty-year incumbent who had been heavily favored to win in July, started to seem vulnerable in August. But in the end, Darling received 54 percent of the vote. With Darling’s victory—the last declared race of the evening—the GOP retained its majority in the Wisconsin State Senate.
It was a long night after a beautiful summer day.
Sandy Pasch’s campaign office in Glendale sits in a strip mall. When I got there the afternoon of the recall, the place was jammed with supporters and the air inside the office was both stuffy and electric.
State Senator Chris Larson, one of the “Fab 14,” rallied the troops, as did state Representative Mark Pocan.
Then it was Pasch’s turn to speak. “It’s about taking back our state, and about getting our voices heard, “ she said to the capacity crowd, and accused Darling of “rubber-stamping” Walker’s policies.
Outside the office I caught up with Pasch. Why did she think she could unseat Darling? I asked her. In 2008, the district went for Obama with 4,000 votes, she said. In 2010, the district supported Walker. It was those 4000 votes that Pasch was after.
Her Get Out the Vote efforts were “fantastic” she said and talked about the overwhelming number of volunteers. They had knocked on 50,000 doors over the past weekend alone, she said.
There was very high turnout in Glendale, Pasch’s territory. The polling place at Parkway Elementary School reported 1100 voters, which almost matched the 1200 voters in 2008 Presidential election. Donna Strand, the chief inspector at the polling station, said her crew had been busy since 7 a.m. “I’ll be glad when today is over,” she said with a smile. “But it’s been fun.”
I spoke to one of the last voters at that polling place, Barb Piaskoski, who stepped into the school at 7:58 p.m. Piaskoski is a small business owner from Shorewood who was hoping the people could work together again. And she was dismissive of all the third-party ads that aired nightly on television. “They are a waste of money,” she said. She voted for Pasch.
The mood was the effervescent at the Sheraton Hotel, where Pasch held her campaign party. People of all ages had crammed into a small ballroom awaiting the results. They cheered loudly when Shilling won, and later King. The crowd chanted “Recall Walker.”
And then around 11pm, Graeme Zielinski, Communications Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, alleged that there was vote tampering in Waukesha, and that there were severe irregularities. He didn’t provide any proof. (The next morning the Democratic Party said the allegations were made in heat of the moment.)
The mood started to get grim at the Sheraton. People were staring at the TV or at their cell phones. Pasch addressed the crowd briefly and thanked people for their hard work and invited people to stay at the party.
But the party was over, even though Pasch did not concede last night.
AP reported shortly around midnight that she had lost by 5000 votes.
If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Walker Worried about Summer Recall."
Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter
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