Elections to recall Wisconsin state senators who supported a controversial collective bargaining law have generated $4.2 million in fundraising, underscoring the far-reaching implications of the elections.
An Associated Press analysis found that the six Republican incumbents and their Democratic challengers have combined to raise more than $4 million, a figure that does not take into account spending by outside groups. It represents a staggering sum of money for elections to a state legislature, and confirms the notion that the elections -- widely seen as a referendum on Wisconsin's law to sharply limit collective bargaining rights for public unions -- could resonate beyond Wisconsin.
"We've never seen anything like this before. Records are going to fall," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. "It's all the more astonishing when it's happening in such a compressed time frame."
Two Democratic senators face recalls over their decision to flee Wisconsin in an effort to block a vote on the unions bill. If they prevail and at least three Republicans are ousted, Democrats would regain control of the Senate in a rebuke to the Republicans who swept into power in 2010 promising to limit government and curtail spending.
A repudiation of that agenda, manifested in the effort to take on labor groups, could indicate that voters have already soured on the cost-cutting, deficit-focused ideology espoused most forcefully by the Tea Party. Officials from both parties will look to the election results as a gauge of voter attitudes heading into the 2012 election.