Yet while the state senate recalls were in full swing, if someone had dropped in from Jupiter, they would have seen campaigns that replicated typical election year contests. Republicans were criticized for cutting school aid, "slashing" health care, and the like. Clearly, with collective bargaining, unions recognized they didn't have the silver bullet issue they craved - so they went with the standard anti-GOP playbook. So while the union imbroglio was the only reason those senators were up for recall, Democratic candidates ignored the issue completely.
But now, the public sector collective bargaining issue has finally cropped up as a major campaign issue. Only this time, it's in a somewhat unexpected place - the race to replace Democrat Herb Kohl in the U.S. Senate.
A race for U.S. Senate seems a strange place for Wisconsin's collective bargaining laws to become an issue. Yet Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, who helped shepherd Walker's law through the legislature, has issued a dramatic new web ad boasting of his role in the union fight:
Fitzgerald is running in a three-way Republican primary for the Senate against former Governor Tommy Thompson and former Congressman Mark Neumann. Clearly, Fitzgerald believes the collective bargaining issue is one that can set himself apart from his opponents (Thompson is trying to recast himself as a modern conservative, while Neumann made a lot of Republican enemies during his gubernatorial primary run against Walker in 2010.)
So while you're not likely to hear much about public union power in the upcoming Scott Walker recall election (which will likely happen in June or July of this year), you are likely to hear more about it in a race for a position that has nothing to do with collective bargaining at all.