Republicans gear up for majority rule
Before the Nov. 2 election, Democrats controlled the Wisconsin governor's seat and both the Senate and Assembly in the Legislature.
Following the election, Republicans are in the driver's seat. When the newly elected officials are sworn in come January, it will be a whole new ballgame in Madison.
It's a significant change not lost on those who now find themselves in the majority party.
John Murtha (R-Baldwin) was returned to his post as state representative for District 29. For the past two years, Murtha has been a part of the minority in the Assembly.
Murtha said he was a bit surprised by the Republican gains across Wisconsin but thinks a message was sent to elected officials everywhere.
"I feel like voters have stepped up and decided the direction they want to go," Murtha said. "We can't continue the course we're on."
Now that Republicans are in charge, Murtha said job creation and state spending cuts will be the top priority.
"We need to be more responsible with taxpayers' money," he said. "We'll take charge and get things in order."
Murtha cautioned, however, that change won't come quickly.
"It's not going to happen overnight," he said. "And it's not going to be easy or pretty. But we have to get our expenses more in line with our income."
State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) was a minority party member during the past legislative session. In January, she will be part of the majority.
While she was pleased with the overall results of the election, Harsdorf admitted her mood isn't euphoric.
"We've got tremendous challenges as we look to the months ahead," she said. "We are going to have to work hard to turn our economy around and put people back to work."
Harsdorf noted that the past two state budgets were extremely challenging to put together.
"But this one we have coming up will top them all," she said. "There won't be stimulus dollars available to us like the last time."
Harsdorf was in Madison last Thursday to help Republicans map out their strategy for the upcoming session. In fact, Harsdorf was elected Republican caucus vice chairwoman at that gathering.
Gov-elect Scott Walker was on hand to speak with fellow Republican officials about his hopes for the coming year.
Through those meetings, Harsdorf believes the majority Republicans will focus on ways to help the private sector create more jobs.
"There were a couple of things done last year that went in the wrong direction," Harsdorf said. "We need to work on some things that will encourage investment and improve consumer confidence."
In District 28, Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie) soundly defeated incumbent Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake) to help his party gain control of the Assembly.
"I'm happy that all the hard work paid off," he said. "I realize it's going to take a lot of hard work and energy, but I'm looking forward to it."
Voters sent a message to all politicians with the election results, Severson said, mainly that people don't want "big government."
Another message was that legislators need to keep their word and accomplish what they say they are going to do, he added.
"We need to do exactly what we said we would do, or we're going to get voted out too," he said.
Severson headed to Madison for the first time Monday to cast his vote for Republican leadership in the Assembly.
After that, Severson said he expects the legislative agenda to begin to take shape.
"The first priority is going to be jobs and the economy," he predicted.
To have an impact on those issues, Severson said he envisions proposals to cut taxes for businesses so jobs are created.
Hraychuck said she was disappointed that her constituents failed to recognize the great progress legislators made during the past 20 months.
She noted that the state's deficit stood at $6.6 billion back then, and now stands at $2.5 billion.
"We cut government spending for the first time in a decade," she said. "And we had a lot of work yet to be done."
Hraychuck said she wishes her Republican counterparts good luck as they strive to right the state's economic ship.
"They certainly have a challenge ahead of them," she said. "I wish them all luck ... for the future of our state. I have no ill feelings against anyone."
As her life of public service winds down, Hraychuck said she plans to take some time off and spend some quality time with her husband.
She's already received a few job offers in Madison, but she's not sure she wants to leave the area.
"I'll keep my options open," she said. "Maybe I'll help my husband with his guide business."
As for a possible run for future public office, Hraychuck said that's not her plan at the present time.
"You never say never," she said.
One thing Hraychuck said she does not plan to do is to spend her time writing letters to the editor and talking badly about Severson.
"I will not be sniping at my successor," she pledged. "I think that's disrespectful and not good for anyone."
Scott Walker, the Republican Milwaukee County executive, was elected Wisconsin's next governor.
Gov. Jim Doyle issued a statement on news.
"I congratulate Scott Walker on his election as Wisconsin's next governor," Doyle said. "I know how long and tough these campaigns have become and I admire Scott's hard work and perseverance. These are qualities that will serve the citizens of Wisconsin well over the next four years."
Doyle pledged to work closely with Walker to ensure an orderly transition.
"I have spoken to governor-elect Walker to let him know that my administration is prepared to begin this process," Doyle added.
J.B. Van Hollen (R) was re-elected as Wisconsin's attorney general, defeating challenger Scott Hassett (D).
"Once again, I appreciate the confidence of Wisconsin's citizens," Van Hollen said. "I have led the Wisconsin Department of Justice with integrity, mindful of its essential law enforcement mission. The results of this election ratify that course."
Van Hollen said he looks forward to strengthening the state's public safety partnerships during his new term.
Incumbent Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D) was re-elected, but the race was extremely close against challenger David King (R).
Challenger Kurt Schuller (R) won the state treasurer's race over incumbent Dawn Marie Sass. Schuller has pledged to work to eliminate the treasurer's office in the future, noting that the office is not essential to the effective running of state government.
In the race for the U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson defeated longtime incumbent Russ Feingold.
"I am humbled and honored to be chosen by the people of Wisconsin to represent them in the United States Senate," Johnson said in a statement. "Senator Russ Feingold has honorably represented the people of Wisconsin and I would like to thank him for his service to our state and nation."
Johnson said that America is at "a tipping point" and a strong message was sent to Washington by Wisconsin voters.
"Our national debt is nearing $14 trillion, politicians of both political parties in Washington have engaged in a reckless spending spree and the people of Wisconsin are struggling," he said. "Washington is too powerful and it is taking us in the wrong direction. Today, Americans across the nation spoke with a loud voice and Washington needs to listen."
Johnson admitted that there is a lot of work to do in order to move the country in the right direction.
"In Congress, I will look for allies who are driven by ideas that best serve our country," he said. "I will ally with those that want to end the massive over-spending and debt, and those who understand the need to ignite our economy, create jobs and put America back to work."
In the U.S. House races, Republican Sean Duffy pulled out a close victory over Democrat Julie Lassa in District 7. The winner replaces longtime Democrat Congressman David Obey who did not seek re-election.
In District 3, Democrat incumbent Ron Kind was in a dog fight before defeating Republican challenger Dan Kapanke.
"I want to thank the people of western Wisconsin for their confidence in me to continue to represent them in Washington," Kind said. "This is a critical time in our nation's history. And the choice made today, the choice to move this country forward, is the right one. I will do everything in my power to create good paying jobs and get western Wisconsin working."