Unions trounced in Wisconsin, California

JUNE 5, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

The AP headline declared, “Wisconsin voters divided on governor, bargaining,” but that piece reviewing exit polls stood in stark contrast to reality. Voters always are divided to some degree, but Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly rebuked the public-sector unions that had sought to recall reform-minded Republican Scott Walker. As of 9 pm California time, the election was called in his favor as he held an astounding 18 percentage-point lead.

Furthermore, the Republican lieutenant governor was also cruising to victory, as were four Republicans in the state Senate seats targeted by the Democrats and their labor union allies. This is a big victory not just for Wisconsin residents, who will continue to see good-government reforms proceed, but for the rest of the nation, even those of us in California.

Had the public-sector unions succeeded, then serious efforts to rein in pension costs for public-sector workers would have evaporated as politicians would have become too nervous to pursue them. Instead, politicians — a bunch generally driven by little more than a desire to hold and retain office — have learned that it’s possible to take on the unions and not only survive, but to prosper. Gov. Walker has just catapulted to the vice-presidential short list, and provided other things don’t trip him up, he has a promising national political future.

The Wisconsin victory also proves that reform can take place in blue states, in places where the union movement has prospered and where Democratic majorities are an ever-present reality. Wisconsin has for decades been at the heart of the progressive movement and remains a liberal bastion. California, of course, could not these days elect a Republican governor who takes on the unions, but we’re seeing signs that Democratic politicians might emerge who embrace a similar agenda.

Pension reform

In San Jose, Measure B — a serious pension reform measure that reduces benefits for current workers – passed overwhelmingly, with little opposition from the unions, which are gearing up for a legal fight. They know they can’t win in the democratic arena. The measure was leading with 71 percent of the vote in that Democratic city, which along with Scott Walker’s victory suggests that unions are now going to be backpedaling fast. Councilwoman Rose Herrera, the swing vote on the council, is leading in her race to retain her seat, which is more good news for San Jose pension reformers.

In San Diego, pension-reform councilman Carl DeMaio was leading the race for mayor, followed by Democrat Bob Filner, which is the best-possible news. A DeMaio-Filner general-election race will be great for DeMaio.

The likely third-place finisher is Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, one of the least principled politicians in the state. Fletcher claims to be for pension reform but has worked closely with the unions. If he finishes in second, he would be a much more formidable candidate for DeMaio. Fletcher’s career should be kaput if these results hold, given that this establishment Republican quit the GOP after it endorsed DeMaio, something that will make him persona non grata in the GOP. And the pension reform measure pushed by DeMaio, Proposition B, is winning by an overwhelming margin.

And now for some really great news, as Fullerton residents are well on their way to recalling three of the biggest buffoons to hold elected office in the county: council members Don Bankhead, Dick Jones and Pat McKinley. The three Republican pension-spiking, pro-redevelopment tax-hikers came into the figurative crosshairs of local activist Tony Bushala after they disgraced themselves by trying to downplay the horrific beating death of an unarmed homeless man by city police officers.

Also in OC, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor is handily beating the pro-union liberal Republican Leslie Daigle.

Sure, Todd Spitzer, the pro-union Republican who retroactively increased pensions for his deputy buddies as an OC supervisor, won back a seat on the board — but that was predictable given his weak opposition, establishment support and his huge war chest. This will soon be an embarrassment for the principle-lacking OC GOP as Spitzer will almost certainly go back to his old ways of advancing legislation designed to help public-sector unions. He will continue to seek the spotlight and once again the most dangerous place in Orange County will be between Todd Spitzer and a TV camera.

But if the results hold, this will be a great night for taxpayers and a terrible night for those public-sector unions that have been plundering the nation for so long.



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