Wisconsin Scott Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election after a decisive victory on Tuesday that dealt a blow to the labor movement and raised Republican hopes of defeating President Barack Obama in the November election, informs Reuters.
With almost all of the vote counted, Walker had 53% to 46% for his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee.
“No, no, no,” Walker said in his victory speech. “The election is over. I talked to the mayor and we had a good conversation.
“Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away,” Walker said. “It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward.”
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was quick to congratulate Walker, according to LA Times.
“Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin,” Romney said in a statement. “Gov. Walker has shown that citizens and taxpayers can fight back — and prevail — against the runaway government costs imposed by labor bosses.”
The election that politically divided Wisconsin has been seen as a barometer of the U.S. political climate going into November’s presidential election.
Strategists in both parties anxiously watched the recall race as a possible harbinger of the presidential election, and the outcome was a major defeat for Democrats and their labor union allies.
“This is a huge win for the Tea Party,” said Matt Batzel, Wisconsin state director of national conservative group American Majority Action.
“Time after time they have answered the call to defend Scott Walker,” he said of the group that seeks deep cuts in U.S. government spending.
The Huff Post recalls that Walker first earned the ire of labor unions and progressives in February 2011, when he pushed a bill through the state Legislature that stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees.
Democrats have since then railed against his cuts to education, repeal of an equal pay enforcement law and controversial remarks about his plan to “divide and conquer” unions.
Last spring Union supporters staged massive demonstrations in the capital, Madison. This year, they turned in more than 900,000 signatures on recall petitions, setting up only the third recall election of a governor in U.S. history.
After the results of the vote were known, the mood in Wisconsin’s capital city was a far cry from the festive atmosphere a year ago when thousands of people marched in cold to oppose Walker’s efforts to curtail public sector union collective bargaining.
“I think a lot of people are disheartened,” said Lorrie Hurckes, who had supported the Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in Tuesday’s race. “Life goes on. But I don’t feel real optimistic.”
The Wisconsin race became second in importance behind only the 2012 presidential contest. Republicans spent $45.6 million on the election and Democrats spent $17.9 million.
Rebecca Kleefisch, Walker’s lieutenant governor, also faced a recall challenge — from Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, head of the state firefighters union. She was winning by a margin similar to Walker’s.