That sound you heard last night was President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drowning under the Republican wave that washed across the nation, grabbing the House of Representatives, numerous Senate seats and the Wisconsin state capitol. Wisconsin, which Obama visited three times since July, joined the Grand Old Party with it’s own grand party.
Scott Walker was declared the winner by NBC and ABC at 9:45 p.m. and the packed crowd at the Country Inn in Waukesha went wild at the news. After waiting an hour to receive Tom Barrett’s concession call, Walker made his first statements as governor-elect. But before he could speak, the crowd broke into a round of “Happy Birthday” in honor of his 43rd birthday.
“I think this may be better then when you got me that Harley for my birthday,” Walker joked back to the crowd.
His speech was filled with thank yous and one common message “Wisconsin is open for business.”
“You have given us a mandate for true reform and I will not let you down,” Walker told the crowd. “But to all who didn’t vote for me, I intend to be governor for the entire state of Wisconsin, no matter who you voted for and we will move this state forward together. I’m not gonna look to the past or backwards to lay blame for the problems, but look forward to face the challenges and find the solution.
“Tonight I want to tell every worker, family and business that you have an ally in the governor’s office. Wisconsin is open for business.”
Walker repeated his campaign promise to declare an economic emergency and call a special session of the legislature after he is sworn in on Jan. 3. He will seek to ease income and property taxes, business regulations and repeal the tax on health savings accounts. He said today he would finalize the Milwaukee County budget and then travel to Madison to meet with legislative leaders to work on balancing the state budget in 2011 and beyond.
“We will pass a job agenda that will send a clear message that Wisconsin is open for business.”
Barrett’s concession was slow in coming, as Democrats declared they would not concede until “every voice in the state was heard.” But when he finally conceded, he was gracious and to the point.
“Five minutes ago I called Scott Walker to congratulate him and told him I wanted to work together because we have very important issues that face this state and city. We all know there are too many people who have lost their jobs and had their wages cut. That’s why I ran for governor, because I care about those people and all the people in Wisconsin.”
Barrett plans to return to city hall today and continue to work for family supporting jobs, educational resources to help the next generation get jobs and to provide for health care and public safety.
“The people have spoken and I respect their decision.”
The same networks announced Ron Johnson as winner, unseating incumbent Russ Feingold with a 5-point margin of victory. Johnson took his victory and the large Republican tide as a message.
“The voters of Wisconsin and the nation have sent a very clear, strong message that we have to get our fiscal house in order; and to repeal the health care bill.”
Johnson said that his job is to bring back Wisconsin and to bring back America.
“We have awakened a sleeping giant, believe me it certainly woke me up,” he said. “We have a deep hole and we will need perseverance. It won’t be easy. But I will look for allies, any allies that understand we can’t spend our nation into bankruptcy. Anyone who understands it is the free market system that creates jobs. Anyone who believes if is freedom and the free market system that made America great. I made a promise at the convention that I will take no vote with my reelection in mind, but for what is in the best interest of America. That is my guarantee.”
Feingold was in an unfamiliar position, being on the losing end of a race. But he took it with aplomb and grace, even quotingBob Dylan.
“But my heart is not weary, its light and free; and I’ve got nothing but affection for those who have sailed with me.”
As he finished his concession speech, Feingold left open the possibility this was not his last race. “I hope and I intend to work with all of you in the future as much as possible. Its on to the next fight, the next battle, its on to 2012, it is on to our next adventure. Forward!”
Walker will find a receptive Assembly and State Senate to work with, as both legislative houses swung in the GOP’s favor.
Senate District 5, covering western Milwaukee and eastern Waukesha counties, was considered a harbinger for how the state would go. Leah Vukmir took the seat from Democrat incumbent Jim Sullivan, with an odd concession. While news polls showed the seat swinging back and forth between the two candidates, Sullivan conceded the race to Vukmir even as the news reported he was leading. When asked what was happening, Sullivan campaign workers said their numbers showed he didn’t have a chance to make up the difference with 40% of the vote left to be counted.
Vukmir described her win as “a movement.”
“I heard from people two years ago about the direction of the state, people never involved and now are energized and excited about getting involved. First on agenda, get governor sworn in and address the number one issue, that is jobs. He has an ambitious plan and I will be beside him to help him and get people back to work.”
Nationally, the GOP took control of the House of Representatives, with some old and new faces joining them. Republican incumbents Jim Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan and Tom Petri easily won their seats and in the case of Sensenbrenner, a possible return to the chairmanship of the Congressional Judicial Committee. Democrat incumbents Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore are returning to Washington, albeit now as members of the minority.
But the upsets have turned Wisconsin in a red state with Republican Sean Duffy taking over the northern Wisconsin seat held by retiring Dave Obey and Reid Ribble ousting two-term Democrat Steve Kagen in the Fox Valley.
Sensenbrenner said the night was a repudiation of ”Obama’s tax and spend and Jim Doyle’s tax and spend and the boot has been applied to their rear-ends. And I want you to watch on Jan. 3 and watch Nancy Pelosi give up her gavel to John Boehner and then watch Jim Doyle and Barbara Lawton go slinking out the back door into their cesspool.
“We have a lot of work to do in Washington and Scott has a lot to do in Madison. It is up to us honored to be elected and those who elected us to keep their eye on the ball. Republicans will not let you down. I’ve never done that and I never will.”
After seeing the results and hearing his candidate concede, a Barrett supporter summed up the night: “Obama needs to be ready, man. They’re gunning for him, they’re gunning for him.”