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Democrats take a Senate seat in Wisconsin

Protesters inside the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 11, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. The controversial union legislation in the state has led to the possible recall of six Republican state senators today. UPI/David Banks
Protesters inside the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 11, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. The controversial union legislation in the state has led to the possible recall of six Republican state senators today. UPI/David Banks | License Photo

MADISON, Wis., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Democrats picked up one state Senate seat in Tuesday's Wisconsin recall vote and had razor-thin margins in two other races.

Six seats held by Republicans were up for grabs, with two Democratic incumbents facing recalls next week, a legacy of the bitter battle in the state legislature over Gov. Scott Walker's bill stripping public employees of most collective bargaining rights. A net gain of three seats would shift control of the Senate to the Democrats.

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By 10:30 p.m. CDT, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had called three races for Republicans and one for a Democratic challenger.

With 67 percent of the precincts reporting in the 8th district, Democrat Sandra Pasch led state Sen. Alberta Darling 52 percent to 48 percent, the newspaper said. In the 18th district, with 97 percent of the vote in, Democrat Jessica King had 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for state Sen. Randy Hopper.

Republicans control all three branches of state government in Wisconsin, holding a 19-14 advantage in the Senate. The Senate's 14 Democrats fled the state to stall consideration of the collective bargaining bill that later was revised so it could pass without the absent senators.

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Joe Heim, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said Democratic and Republican voters have become more engaged because of the state's bitter political climate.

"It's extremely historical and unprecedented," Heim said. "[Republicans] woke up a sleeping giant and energized a group of people that had not been … particularly active in politics in recent years."

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