Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett Tuesday, overcoming a historic recall challenge less than two years into his term as governor. NBC News called the race for Walker at 9:50 p.m ET. With 21 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press shows Walker leading Barrett 60 percent to 39 percent.
The result is a blow to Wisconsin Democrats and labor groups who spent more than a year and millions of dollars trying to oust the Republican. The victory cements Walker's status as a conservative icon and boosts Republican hopes in the Badger State heading into the November presidential and U.S. Senate elections.
Walker's move to remove collective bargaining for public employee unions shortly after taking office ignited a firestorm of anger on the left, leading to months of protests at the state Capitol and the eventual effort to remove Walker from office. Recall organizers turned in more than one million signatures to force a recall election, and Barrett emerged from a contested Democratic primary to set up a rematch with the governor.
During the recall campaign, the issue of collective bargaining faded into the background as Walker and Barrett argued over state job numbers and exchanged charges of ethics violations. With the state deeply polarized, the two sides spent millions of dollars motivating their bases and wooing a small sliver of undecided voters, shattering previous spending records for a Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign in the process.
Walker will face reelection in 2014.
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