BY LAUREL PATRICK FOR THE WISCONSIN REPORTER – MADISON — Both political parties in Wisconsin see the contention surrounding Gov. Scott Walker’s successful push to repeal most public union collective bargaining as an opportunity to build support going forward.
Walker on Friday signed into law his revised budget repair bill, which restricts collective bargaining for public union employees and requires them to pay increased contributions to their pensions and health care benefit costs.
Brad Courtney, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said this week demonstrated a follow through on promises made during the November campaign season. He said Wisconsinites and local governments will realize Walker’s proposal was the right thing to do.
“In seven or eight months when people realize the sky hasn’t fallen and their taxes haven’t gone up, they’re going to be glad with what Republicans have done,” Courtney said. “Republicans were elected to do a job, and we’re just following through on that.”
Courtney said he stands true to that believe, despite some polls that suggest Wisconsinites wanted Walker to compromise on the collective-bargaining measure. The conservative-leaning Wisconsin Policy Research Institute conducted polls between Feb. 27 and March 1 that showed 65 percent of Wisconsinites believe Walker should compromise with public sector unions, versus 33 percent who said he should “stand strong. Six-hundred and three Wisconsinites participated in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
A poll conducted Feb. 20 by Pulse Opinion Research LLC of 500 likely Wisconsin voters, found 56 percent of those responding said state workers shoud have collective bargaining, while 32 percent said no. Twelve percent said they weren’t sure. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
The poll was commissioned by Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a national nonprofit journalism organization, of which WisconsinReporter is a member.
Graeme Zielinski, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said the votes that took place this week at the Capitol have sent a “pulse of energy” through people across the state and has helped spur a movement, in both the recall of eight Republican senators and the upcoming April 5 Supreme Court election.
“The Republicans sought this fight, they will get their fight,” Zielinski said. “This will definitely play out in the spring elections. People who thought they were safe, who couldn’t hear the footsteps of working families, places where you wouldn’t dream of opposition, it is happening.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin said both sides have an opportunity to come out on top — it’s just how they go about it.
On the Democrat’s side, they’ve awakened a sleeping giant, but to Franklin the question is just how big is the giant.
“In the next few months, they need to exploit that mobilization and keep it going both on the fundraising side and on the ground game,” Franklin said. “Voter turnout and activation are their number one opportunity.”
Franklin noted the Democratic anger is good for mobilization now, but the biggest challenge will be to keep that level of involvement going forward into the possible Walker recall and 2012 elections. A public official must be in office at least a year before the possibility of recall can be raised, according to Wisconsin law.
“On the Republican side, it’s delivering on promises and taking credit for it rather than walking away from it,” Franklin said. “Walker promised to really fix the budget, and now he has to deliver and put the deficit under control. If he makes good on those things, it puts him and his party in a good position for 2012.”
However, both parties do face risks regarding how much support and effort they put into the upcoming Supreme Court election. Zielinski said he sees a vote for incumbent Justice David Prosser, considered a conservative, over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg is a vote for Walker.
Prosser “wants to help Walker enact his corporate agenda,” Zielinski said.
Courtney said the GOP’s goal going into the April 5 election is to “make sure good conservatives get elected statewide.”
Franklin said the election reflects a political calculation for both parties, noting there is both risk and potential in their decisions to make the Supreme Court race a proxy fight over the current problem.
“Both sides may start to spend a lot more money in outside expenditures in the race,” Franklin said. “I don’t think it’s a sure thing for either side to be confident that they will win.”
For more results from the Franklin Center poll, visit: http://www.wisconsinreporter.com/official-poll-results