After a year and a half of protests and political turmoil, Gov. Scott Walker defeated challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the third gubernatorial recall election in United States history.
The Associated Press reported that Walker received 53 percent of the vote, with Barrett receiving 46 percent. Walker is the first governor to survive a recall election in U.S. history.
A statement from Walker’s campaign thanked Wisconsin voters for their support and called the results a “tremendous victory” for the state’s taxpayers. Walker also said he wanted to focus on reuniting Wisconsin’s divided political climate.
“Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away,” Walker said in the statement. “It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward.”
In Milwaukee’s Hilton Hotel, Barrett gave his concession speech to a large crowd of supporters that were disappointed by the early loss. He told them to “remain engaged” as they “continue the fight for justice and fairness,” adding that Wisconsin’s democracy has come alive in the last sixteen months.
Barrett went on to describe the challenges the state faces, emphasizing the need for cooperation from both sides in order to solve them.
“Our challenges are real and it is my hope that while we have lively debates and lively discourse which is healthy in any democracy, that those who are victorious tonight, as well as those who are not victorious tonight, that at the end of the day will do what is right for Wisconsin families,” he said.
The election saw record-breaking turnout numbers, with 65 percent of eligible voters showing up to the polls.
Barrett also ran against Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial race, with Walker winning 52 to 47 percent. Walker will face re-election again in 2014.
University of Wisconsin political science professor Donald Downs said it is unclear how large of an impact the recall election’s results will have on national politics.
“[Walker's victory] might provide an impetus for similar reforms for other states,” Downs said. “But Wisconsin is Wisconsin. It’s not clear how much it will carry over.”
Downs said Walker’s victory may be attributed to Wisconsin voters feeling that the state economy is improving, but he added that this feeling could also help President Barack Obama in his reelection, which is largely dependent upon the state of the economy.
The Wisconsin branch of Obama for America released a statement shortly after the results were announced that said while tonight’s outcome was not what they had hoped for, the outcome still sent a clear message to Walker.
“Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites…took a stand against the politics of division and against the flood of secret and corporate money spent on behalf of Scott Walker,” OFA-Wisconsin State Director Tripp Wellde said in the statement. “It is a testament to all of those individuals who talked to their friends, neighbors, and colleagues about the stakes in this election of how close this contest was.”
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also defeated her challenger, President of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin Mahlon Mitchell.
Three of the four GOP state senators also facing recall elections defeated their Democratic challengers. The fourth, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, will be replaced by former Sen. Jon Lehman. The Senate is now split 17-16 with a Democratic majority. However, both the Assembly and Senate have several elections in November before the next scheduled legislative session in January.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.