In divided La Crosse County, Walker losesby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
LA CROSSE, Wis. — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett may have lost a historic recall election against Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin's hotly-contested election Tuesday. But in La Crosse County the Democrat prevailed.
The southwestern Wisconsin county itself was deeply divided throughout this recall campaign, and Democrats found their victory there bittersweet on election night.
Diana Hobson was among them. A resident of the city of LaCrosse, knocked on doors and campaigned for Barrett in the weeks leading up to the election. Standing at the bar of the Best Western hotel there, she says she was shocked the networks called the race for Walker within an hour of polls closing.
"It's very disappointing with all the hard work that everyone has done here," she said before ordering a beer.
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• In La Crosse County, Walker loses
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Nearby, party activist Bob Treu mulled the results over a cocktail.
"It's starting to sink in," he said. "There have been greater catastrophes in life, both on the political arena and just in my life in general. The feeling of devastation is lessening by the moment."
Treu says La Crosse County has always been a toss-up politically.
"I think the mood shifts are huge. We might well vote against Obama next fall, I don't know. But La Crosse County, like much of the nation, is pretty closely divided and it can go either way," he said.
The county did go the other way when Walker was first elected in 2010, when Walker defeated Barrett by just 115 votes. Yet this is also where Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain in 2008.
But for the 200 Democrats gathered at the hotel, the county's vote for Barrett this time around was small consolation.
La Crosse County's Democratic Party Chair Vicki Burke spoke to the stunned supporters.
"This has been a very long 15 months and it's been difficult for all of us because we understand what's at stake in Wisconsin and we feel that Wisconsin is on the wrong track," La Crosse County's Democratic party chair Vicki Burke told the 200 or so Democrats in the room. "The fight continues. We don't give up the fight because we've lost."
A couple miles away, the La Crosse County Republicans celebrated Walker's win, even as they lost at the county level. County party chair Julian Bradley says he's not surprised La Crosse voters chose Barrett over Walker, but added that he hopes to flip that result come November's presidential election.
"We need to reach out to [voters] and let them know what Gov. Walker has done for them, and hopefully we'll have some time to do that. He won't be up for re-election until 2014, so we'll have two years to work on them," he said.
For now, Bradley and other La Crosse Republicans say they will celebrate Walker's historic victory as the first governor to successfully thwart a recall.
- Morning Edition, 06/06/2012, 7:20 a.m.