More than a year-and-a-half after being elected governor of (the midwestern state of) Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker has prevailed in a special election aimed at removing him from office. He is the first governor in U.S. history to survive such a move. Many observers believe will have implications for the November presidential election.
In a race that attracted huge voter turnout, Walker easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who unsuccessfully challenged him in the 2010 governor's race.
The recall election was forced by a massive grassroots petition drive that gathered nearly 1 million signatures from voters across Wisconsin. Democratic Party activists and their union allies wanted Walker ousted because of a new law that sharply curtailed the right of most state government employees to bargain for pay raises and other benefits.
In his concession speech, Barrett said it was time for the state to heal the wounds left over from the vote and praised supporters who engaged in the recall fight.
''To those of you, to those of you who fought to obtain signatures, who stood out in the cold, who did what you thought was right, never ever stop doing what you think is right. That's what makes this such a great country," said Barrett. "To those of you who care about this city that I love, to those of you who care about this state that I love, please please please, remain engaged, remain involved because we will continue to fight for justice and fairness in this city and state.''
For his part, Walker told a group of cheering supporters his recall victory was proof that Wisconsin voters approved of his efforts, which he says were needed to reverse the state's budget deficit.
"What has made the United States of America arguably one of the greatest countries in the history of the world, is that in times of crisis, be they economic or fiscal, be they military or spiritual, in times of crisis, what has made America amazing, has been the fact that throughout our history, throughout the more than 200 years of our history, there have been men and women of courage who stood up and decided it was more important to look at the future of their children and their grandchildren than their own political futures," said Walker.
The recall effort attracted money and attention from Republican and Democratic supporters across the country. Walker raised $30 million to fight off the recall, compared to Barrett's $4 million.
Walker's victory has raised hopes among national Republican Party figures that Mitt Romney, the party's likely presidential nominee, can defeat Democratic President Barack Obama in Wisconsin in the November presidential race. Mr. Obama easily won Wisconsin in the race for the White House in 2008 and exit polls taken Tuesday give the president a sizable lead over Romney.