Republican Gov. Scott Walker broke at least a million hearts by beating Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in Wisconsin's June 5 recall election. Barrett conceded shortly after 10 p.m.
Walker's lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, also survived her recall challenge from firefighter Mahlon Mitchell.
Walker will continue his term with a less sympathetic legislature. While the state Assembly remains in Republican control, John Lehman defeated GOP incumbent Van Wanggaard in the 21st District to flip the Senate to the Democrats. Three other Republicans were victorious in their races: Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Jerry Petrowski.
Walker's plans for the remainder of his term include hitting his goal of 250,000 new jobs. Democrats fear further restrictions on union rights and further cuts to education and health care.
Despite a fervent recall drive that gathered almost a million signatures between last November and January, Democrats couldn't match Republican turnout or money. Walker took advantage of a state law that allows an incumbent facing a recall to accept unlimited donations.
He outraised Barrett by a 7-to-1 margin, with most of his $30 million coming from out of state.
Walker pounded home his message in round-the-clock TV commercials, insisting that his reforms had resulted in a balanced budget and an improved employment picture. Barrett emphasized that the employment picture hadn't improved all that much, also harping on Walker's divisiveness, his cuts to education and health care, and his involvement in an ongoing John Doe corruption investigation stemming from his tenure as Milwaukee County executive.
Walker prevailed in a bitterly divided state in which most of the electorate had made up its mind early; only about 3% were undecided. The race was almost even just before the election, meaning the get-out-the-vote efforts were key. Turnout was high across the state.
Walker kicked off the political battle royal in February 2011 with a surprise attack on public labor unions. He hadn't discussed his intention to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights during the campaign, so when he introduced his budget repair bill -- "dropping the bomb," as he later put it -- union supporters responded with outrage. Hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on the Capitol in Madison, creating momentum for the recall campaign.
It remains to be seen how Walker and the roughly half the state who oppose him will get along for the next two and a half years, or how the election results will affect the November presidential campaign in Wisconsin.
In his victory speech, Walker made an uncharacteristic gesture of bipartisanship, promising to convene a meeting with lawmakers from both parties. He also reached out to those who voted against him and pledged to improve life for all Wisconsinites. But the boos from his supporters in Waukesha were ominous.