Around 1 a.m. Wednesday night, while most of Wisconsin's recall activists coped with their candidate's decisive loss, around 30 supporters in Racine cheered as John Lehman declared victory in a state Senate race. Taking the seat gives the Democrats control of the state Senate, which was split 16-16 with one vacancy. However, Lehman's opponent, Republican Van Wanggaard, has yet to concede. It's hard to blame him. The margin of victory—less than 800 votes—practically ensures a recount.
But even if the Democrats gain control of the chamber, the victory isn't likely to make much of a difference. Ostensibly, controlling the state senate will allow Democrats to thwart Walker's legislative agenda. But as I noted Monday, the legislature isn't scheduled to meet again before the November elections, which means, barring an unlikely special session, there will be no legislation to block.
"Whether [Democrats] can hold the Senate in November is an open question," University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles Franklin told me before yesterday's election. (Franklin is currently overseeing the polling center at Marquette University, which ultimately won for "poll-closest-to-actual-outcome.") Lehman's victory could give him an incumbent advantage going into fall elections, but it will hardly create much momentum given the devastating losses last night.
If Wisconsin Democrats do succeed in holding the chamber, they will be well-positioned to bargain on Walker's legislative agenda and block bills they deem offensive. But that will turn on victories five months away.