Dems win Wisconsin Senate majority after failing to oust Walker

MILWAUKEE Tue Jul 3, 2012 1:09am IST

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Democrats on Monday took majority control of the Wisconsin state Senate, a minor consolation prize after failing on June 5 to oust Republican governor Scott Walker over his attacks on government unions.

A two-week recount of a disputed state Senate recall election held on the same day as the Walker vote showed that former state Senator Democrat John Lehman defeated incumbent Republican Senator Van Wanggaard by 819 votes, or 1 percent, according to the Racine County Clerk's office.

"I look forward to joining my Democratic colleagues in the new majority Senate, and begin bringing jobs back to the citizens of Racine County," Lehman said.

The result gives Democrats a 17-16 majority in the Senate, which may be short-lived since half of its members are up for re-election in November and Republicans have redrawn election lines to favor them. The result also has little meaning because the state Senate is not expected to reconvene until January.

Wanggaard, who has until July 10 to challenge the result of the recount, has voiced concern over irregularities at the polls such as voters failing to sign poll books and resealed ballot bags.

"Unfortunately, rather than clarify the myriad of issues that surfaced on June 5, the recount uncovered even more suspicious activity," said Wanggaard, adding he will decide within the next couple days whether to challenge the recount.

The original canvass found Wanggaard lost the June 5 election to Lehman by 834 votes.

Wanggaard was one of three Republican state senators who faced special elections, along with Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

Walker angered Democrats and labor groups with his successful drive last year to limit unions. Successful statewide recall petition drives triggered special elections for the Republican lawmakers who were eligible to face recall under state law.

Walker on June 5 became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall. The two other senators along with Kleefisch also won recall elections that day. A senator resigned in March before facing a special election. Her seat was won by a Republican.

(Editing by Greg McCune and M.D. Golan)

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