Democrats take control of Wisconsin Senate
Post by Emily Mills on 7/17/2012 1:06pm
Democrats took majority control of the Wisconsin Senate today after winning a series of recall elections over the past year, giving them a slim 17-16 edge. Republicans had held the Senate since sweeping elections in November 2010.
During the transfer of power ceremony at the Capitol today Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) was elected president of the state Senate.
John Lehman's defeat of incumbent Sen. Van Wanggaard in the 21st District, which was finalized after a recount of the votes early in July, gave the Senate Democrats their narrow lead.
Now-former Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called for the body to meet today in order to affect the transition of control as quickly as possible and allow for the election of a president and president pro tempore.
Democrats had been calling for Sen. Mike Ellis to step down as president once the Lehman victory had been certified, since Republicans could have blocked the vote on a new president if Ellis had remained in that position.
Even as he called for the session Fitzgerald was quick to tout Republican accomplishments: "With all that Senate Republicans have done this past session to put Wisconsin on the right path, I am confident that we will regain the majority this fall so we can keep moving Wisconsin forward,” he said.
Onlookers in the Senate gallery during today's session were heard to cough while saying "ALEC" as Fitzgerald talked about how Republican "reforms are working."
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley swore both Lehman and Jerry Petrowski in to their new seats. Petrowski is a Republican who won in a recall election in a vacant seat in the Wausau area.
The position of Senate Majority Leader now goes to Mark Miller (D-Monona), who promptly named Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) as the new Joint Finance Committee co-chair, a position she will share with Republican Rep. Robin Vos.
"You're the Majority Leader. You can do whatever you want," Ellis told Miller.
Miller countered that it was the job of the Majority Leader to respect the voices of the minority party and the general public, too.
Risser is the longest serving state lawmaker in the country, having been in office since 1957. The position of Senate president generally goes to the most senior member of the majority party.
Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) was elected as president pro tempore.
The Democrats control of the body could be short-lived, however, as 16 Senate seats will be up for grabs in the November elections. The regular legislative session isn't scheduled to start until January.
Voting floor sessions could be called in the meantime if the Republican-controlled Assembly or Gov. Scott Walker call for them - scenarios that both seem unlikely in the current political climate.
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at