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Senate recall elections could shift balance of power

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RACINE -- Besides the race for governor, voters will take to the polls Tuesday, June 5th and decide recalls in four Senate districts. The results of these races will decide whether Democrats or Republicans control that branch of government.

Right now, there are 16 Republicans and 16 Democrats, with one seat vacant. Republican Pam Galloway of Wausau would have faced a recall, but stepped down because of family health issues.

Two of the Senate recalls are in the Milwaukee area -- District 13 includes parts of Waukesha, Dodge and Jefferson counties. That race pits Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald against political newcomer Lori Compas. District 21 is in the Racine County area. In a 2010 rematch, Senator Van Wanggaard looks to keep the seat that he won from Democrat John Lehman.

With one day to go, Wanggaard grabbed lunch Monday, June 4th with fellow Senate Republicans Alberta Darling and Mary Lazich.

"We're just gonna keep chatting with people, trying to get the message out, make sure people know about it. There's a sense of urgency," Wanggaard said.

In the Democrats' Racine office, volunteers made calls to voters Monday.

"People are getting kinda worn out but there's plenty of energy to make it through one more day," Lehman said.

Both men realize there's more than a Senate seat at stake. With the Senate chamber split at 16 and 16, whoever wins could affect the balance of power in the Senate - at least until the November election.

"We're much better off starting from ahead rather than even so that's why we're putting so much effort into these four races right now," Lehman said.

"I think we will keep the Senate. Even if we lose one or two of these seats, we will keep the Senate in November, but it would be a good thing - it sends a different message if all four of us are returned to our seats," Wanggaard said.

The significance of Tuesday's election kept the candidates energized as they made their arguments to voters with one day to go.

"We need to be moving the state forward. We need jobs. We don't need to be Illinois," Wanggaard said.

"I have a build-the-workforce kind of mentality, and defend the little guy and defend the poorer taxpayer rather than the rich guys," Lehman said.

The Racine City Clerk is expecting a turnout Tuesday of 65% to 70%. If that happens, it would match the turnout Racine had for the 2008 presidential election.