Wisconsin Democrats retract election tampering accusation against Waukesha County clerk

Wisconsin Democrats picked up two seats in the state Senate after defeating incumbent Republicans in recall elections on Tuesday, falling short of the three seats needed to gain a majority.

Unofficial results show Democratic candidate Jennifer Shilling defeated state Sen. Dan Kapanke and Democratic candidate Jessica King defeated state Sen. Randy Hopper.

Kapanke and Hopper were both considered vulnerable Republicans. They were the first two state senators to have signatures filed against them.

Wisconsin Republican state Sens. Robert Cowles, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen and Alberta Darling held on to their seats, defeating Democratic challengers Nancy Nusbaum, Shelly Moore, Fred Clark and Sandra Pasch, respectively.

Clark was the first Democrat to challenge Olsen in the senator's more than 16 years as a Wisconsin lawmaker.

Democratic candidate Chris Taylor also won her uncontested race to replace former state Rep. Joe Parisi (D) in the 48th Assembly District.

Before all the votes had been counted Tuesday night, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin accused Waukesha County clerk Kathy Nickolaus of tampering in the 8th State Senate District race between by "sitting on ballots."

"The race to determine control of the Wisconsin Senate has fallen in the hands of the Waukesha County clerk, who has already distinguished herself as incompetent, if not worse," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in a statement.

"She is once more tampering with the results of a consequential election and in the next hours we will determine our next course of action. For now, Wisconsin should know that a dark cloud hangs over these important results."

Nickolaus came under scrutiny in April when she temporarily reversed results of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race by omitting the entire city of Brookfield.

About an hour later after issuing their first statement, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin retracted their accusation against Nickolaus.

"Though we believe that Sandy Pasch was able to battle Alberta Darling to a virtual tie, on her turf, we will not pursue questions of irregularities," Tate said in a statement. "Those heat-of-the-moment statements came in light of the uncertainties that arose from a recent election, known too well."

The Washington Post reported that more than $25 million from around the country has poured into the recall elections, shattering previous records.

“The spending is so far off the charts. It does not compare to anything we’ve ever seen,” Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, told the Post. "It is an indication of how much things have been stirred up here. Wisconsin has been put on a national stage and it is clear that some groups see these elections as something of a national referendum."

Democratic Wisconsin Senate candidates overwhelmingly defeated their fake rivals in the primary elections in July. Republicans entered the fake candidates into the race to force Democratic primary elections and delay the general election.

Liberal and progressive groups filed papers seeking to recall eight Republican state senators after the lawmakers supported Republican Gov. Scott Walker's controversial "budget repair bill," which stripped nearly all collective bargaining rights from public employees. In response, conservatives filed recall papers against eight Democratic state senators.

The state Government Accountability Board approved recall elections for six Republicans and three Democrats.

One of the Democratic senators, Dave Hansen, successfully defended his seat in a July 19 election.

Democratic state Sens. Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch face a recall election on August 16.

Under Wisconsin law, any elected official who has served at least one year of their current term can be recalled from office. Democrats are expected to launch a recall effort against Gov. Walker, who was inaugurated last January, in 2012.

Ahead of Tuesday's elections, the Wisconsin Republican Party and Wisconsin Democratic Party accused each other of dirty tricks. Both parties have filed complaints with the Government Accountability Board, accusing each other of engaging in illegal campaign coordination in Senate District 8. Collusion between state resources, political campaigns and independent groups is illegal under Wisconsin law.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed another complaint seeking to stop what it called a Koch brothers-funded scheme to suppress Democratic votes the recall elections.

Updated August 10, 2011 at 1:39am EST.