MILWAUKEE (AP) — Candidates approving this message have been at it for two years in Wisconsin, along with the robocalls, angry commercials, emails begging for campaign donations and glossy political mail.
Think you had it bad over the last few months? Don’t complain to Wisconsin voters, who have endured a continuous stream of elections, recalls and recounts since 2010, including one statewide election each month between April and June.
With Tuesday’s presidential and congressional races finally over in this battleground state, residents are settling in to a campaign respite.
Some said they’re answering their phones again. Local advertisers have access to the prime television spots that had been monopolized by wealthy buyers of campaign and issue ads. Campaign volunteers suddenly have free time.
“I’m going to catch up on all the reading I’ve been putting off for a year,” said 77-year-old Luonne Dumak, who estimates she spent eight to 20 hours per week volunteering at a GOP headquarters in southeastern Wisconsin for the last two years, including helping Republican Gov. Scott Walker beat back a recall effort.
“But you know,” the retired office worker added, “in the spring there’s another state Supreme Court race.”
Many local voters probably don’t want to hear that.
The action started in 2010, when Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a governor’s race that cost $37.4 million, a record at the time. Walker moved swiftly to curtail collective bargaining rights for most public employees, sparking massive protests and prompting 14 Democratic state senators to flee the state in a futile attempt to block the plan.
Democrats then gathered enough signatures to force several Republican officeholders, including Walker, into recall elections as payback. Republicans responded by doing the same to a few Democrats.
But since the governor couldn’t face a recall until he’d been in office for at least a year, Democrats in the meantime transformed an otherwise quiet Wisconsin Supreme Court election into a heated referendum on Walker.
A few months later, in the summer of 2011, nine state senators from across the state faced recall elections stemming from their positions on the labor law. Democrats defended their three incumbents and also took two of six seats from Republicans.
Five more elections arrived in rapid succession this year. Then a Republican presidential primary in April was followed by a Democratic primary in May to decide who would challenge Walker in the June recall election.
In August, four Republicans squared off in a bruising primary for the U.S. Senate. It came to an end Tuesday, with the deciding of the presidential and U.S. Senate elections that had attracted national attention and money to the state.
Margaret Grace, a junior and member of Marquette University’s College Democrats, spent two years helping with one hectic Wisconsin campaign after another. After working so long to organize volunteers, make phone calls and knock on doors, she said it felt weird to have all the elections come to an abrupt end.
“It’s certainly different. We were saying, ‘What are we going to do now that we don’t have a campaign to work on?’” she said.
Her group says it’s considering partnering with environmental or women’s rights groups on campus.
All those Wisconsin elections meant plenty of campaign spending: $81 million in the Walker recall race, about $65 million for the U.S. Senate race and $44 million for the state Senate recalls last year. A lot of that money went to TV stations in battleground areas such as Brown County.
Stations have to give legally qualified candidates their best ad rates. But issue groups, who are often well-funded and eager to spend, can be charged anything, said Steve Lavin, the station manager at WBAY-TV in Green Bay. Where a regular advertiser might be charged $2,000 for a prime-time spot, an issue group could be charged $20,000 to $30,000, he said.
That left some reliable advertisers scrambling for preferred spots. David Gruber, a personal injury attorney, is well-known throughout the state for his catchy commercials. But with fewer favorable time slots to choose from, he said his office compensated with billboards and website ads.
So many elections in such a short time could have caused Wisconsin voters to burn out. But the opposite was true. While voter turnout nationally was lower Tuesday than it was in 2008, the number of Wisconsin voters who turned out increased by about 80,000.
Still, the elections took a toll on some people.
Rita Pincsak, 63, of Brookfield said political divisions caused her to break off friendships with people whose views weren’t compatible with hers. And James Stanhope, 60, of St. Francis said he stopped answering his phone for the past two months to avoid robocalls.
“I’ve gotten sick and tired of it,” said Stanhope, adding that the endless TV commercials were intolerable. “I mean, when you know ads by heart and they start playing in your head, you’ve had too much.”
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.
More Related Stories
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Today, Obama defends his drones
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- Judge tells lesbian couple to separate -- or lose kids
- Obama to address drones, Guantánamo
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11