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The Year in Wisconsin Politics 2012

From Scott Walker emerging as the only governor to survive a recall and Paul Ryan being selected as Mitt Romney's running mate for president, a national spotlight shined bright on Wisconsin this year.

Divisive — from recalls to recounts, it became a buzzword for Wisconsin politics in 2012.

A national spotlight shined bright on Wisconsin this year, as it was a historic one for politics. 

Scott Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville became a national household name after being selected as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate and state voters elected Tammy Baldwin to fill Herb Kohl's seat, making in her the first openly gay woman in the U.S. Senate.

The Walker recall

On the heels of a slew of recall elections and large-scale protests on the steps of the state Capitol building, the year kicked off with more recall attempts, including one aimed at Gov. Scott Walker.

Largely sparked by the governor's Act 10, which curtailed collective bargaining for most public employees, Democrats turned in nearly 1 million signatures against Walker — and a total of 1.9 million signatures, including another 845,000 filed against four Republican lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch — to the Government Accountability Board in January, after two months of circulating petitions. 

Election officials said they would spend the next 60 days verifying those signatures. 

In the meantime, Republicans, who characterized themselves as the silent majority over the past year, rallied in Wauwatosa for the first event of its kind in support of Walker.

Then in late March, the GAB verified 900,938 valid signatures, more than enough to spark a recall. The state set the primary date for May 8 and the general election for June 5. 

Democrats Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Kathleen Vinehout and Doug LaFollette squared off in May for a chance to challenge Walker; and Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, and private investigator Ira Robbins emerged to challenge Kleefisch. Independent gubernatorial candidate Hariprasad "Hari" Trivedi also was on the ballot. 

Voters wouldn't be required to show identification, after a Dane County circuit judge issued a permanent injunction blocking the implementation of the law. It was the second time the recently enacted law had been shot down. Later in 2012, the law would be shot down for a third time. 

National eyes on Wisconsin

As the Democratic field emerged to challenge Walker, Republicans on a national level jockeyed for the right to take on President Barack Obama, and they saw Wisconsin as a place to plead their case. 

Republican candidate Rick Santorum visited Wisconsin in March. Wisconsin's caucus, along with others held in early April, would arguably be Santorum's last chance to stay in the race for the GOP nomination for president, but Romney . 

In May, Barrett easily defeated Falk to spark a gubernatorial rematch — Barrett versus Walker. Nothing changed from the previous year, however, and Walker cruised to an easy victory to retain the governor's office. 

With the gubernatorial recall in the rear-view, the focus in the state shifted to the emerging two-man race between former Gov. Tommy Thompson and businessman Eric Hovde for the approaching GOP primary for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retiring Kohl. The primary winner would take on U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the lone Democrat in the running for the seat. Thompson emerged as the winner in the GOP primary. 

Meanwhile, Ryan added more intrigue to the political scene when he was selected to run as vice president on the Republican ticket for president. 

Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race and the presidential race were in question right up to Nov. 5. Obama and Romney visited the swing state of Wisconsin several times in the weeks approaching Election Day, and the contest between Baldwin and Thompson was bitterly contested, with more than $78 million spent, mostly on attack ads for television. Obama and Baldwin emerged as winners, with the president taking Wisconsin with about 52 percent of the vote, despite Ryan's presence. 

Shorewood

After state legislative districts were redrawn, state Rep. Sandy Pasch decided to run for the new 10th Assembly District representing Shorewood and portions of Milwaukee in 2012. Along with Pasch, Millie Coby of Shorewood, Ieshuh Griffin of Milwaukee and Harriet Callier of Milwaukee were Democrats vying for the seat, and with no Republican on the ticket, a mid-August Democratic primary was winner-take-all.

The road leading up to the primary was filled with barbs aimed at Pasch, centering on her outsider status and race. Pasch lived in Whitefish Bay, which is not part of the new district, and as a white woman was running in a district with a heavy African-American constituency.

In July, Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, who vacated the Assembly seat, urged citizens to "vote for someone that looks like you." Pasch said she felt the comment was aimed at her, and said to suggest someone should vote for a candidate based on their skin color is poor advice.

Callier later bowed out of the race, but not before taking a stab at Pasch. .

None of those efforts could keep Pasch from the Assembly, however, as she garnered 63 percent of the vote to take the seat.

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