The Wisconsin Affect in Colorado

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A Tom Barrett Supporter in Wisconsin (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

A Tom Barrett Supporter in Wisconsin (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

When organized labor decided to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, they knew their fight would influence not only Wisconsin’s future, but also future elections across the country.

But with Walker’s big win in his recall fight on Tuesday, the big question for organized labor will be how this fight will effect their influence throughout 2012.

On the national level, organized labor can take away some bright spots from the defeat on Tuesday. Because even though they failed to oust Walker, they did ensure that Republicans from across the nation spent millions of dollars fighting the recall effort. Those are millions of dollars that won’t be spent in the fall thanks to being needed in Wisconsin. On that level, it was a victory for unions.

MORE FROM CBSNEWS.COM: How Scott Walker won the Wisconsin recall election

But that may end up being a Pyrrhic victory for unions because the defeat of the organized labor campaign has indeed invigorated and motivated the right, not only in Wisconsin, but around the country. The new energy created may help find more money to replace what was spent in the spring.

The other problem for unions is that while other Governors may not want to incur their wrath for promoting similar measures against collective bargaining rights of public employees in their states, Governors also know that unions can be defeated.

Here in Colorado, the affect on labor’s influence in politics may not change much.

Organized labor has had a disproportional influence in politics in Colorado because even though only a small percentage of non-public employees in Colorado are unionized, unions are very influential in Colorado political races.

The influence of labor in Colorado comes from their ability to work together along side other traditionally Democratic forces to unify and defeat Republicans, despite differences between other Democratic groups. Frankly, unions in Colorado are more disciplined than their colleagues in other states.

But the bad news for Colorado unions is that the Walker recall win may end up reigniting a fire among former Tea Party activists to get back involved in Colorado politics. The news about the results of the recall effort will remind many people about exactly why it happened in the first place. Namely, that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that removed collective bargaining rights from public employees in a supposed effort to save the state money.

Whether the law will actually save the state of Wisconsin money or not can be debated. But the idea of a governor trying to save taxpayer money, no matter how controversial, is very popular is some quarters.

With Mitt Romney securing his party’s nomination, the Tea Party wing of the GOP has been fairly quiet. The stirrings in Wisconsin may be just what the Tea Party needs to wake from their long slumber.

An awakened Tea Party is not powerful enough to sway Colorado towards Mitt Romney all by itself. But added to other GOP forces, and effective campaigning, a renewed Tea Party can make the race much tighter in an already competitive swing state.

The political dust stirred up in Wisconsin may blow over the country and innocently dissipate away. But, millions of dollars and hundreds of news stories have a way of sticking around, somehow.

Don’t be surprised if the commotion in the Badger State finds a way to shake things up here in Colorado in its own special way.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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