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Democrat holds onto Wisconsin Senate seat

Dinesh Ramde

A Wisconsin state senator survived a recall election Tuesday that gave voters the most direct opportunity yet to react to a Republican-backed law that stripped most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen defeated Republican recall organizer David VanderLeest with 69 percent of the vote, with 65 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.

Hansen was the first of nine state senators scheduled for recall elections who faced voters amid the fallout from the bitter fight surrounding Republican Gov. Scott Walker's union plan, which attracted national attention and tens of thousands of protesters to the Wisconsin Capitol earlier this year.

The other two Democrats facing recalls were tracking Republican primaries to find out who they'll face during elections next month, when six Republicans also will face recall elections.

And the stakes are high: If Democrats gain three seats, they'll retake control of the state Senate and get key momentum in their efforts to recall Walker next year.

The Republicans were targeted for supporting Walker's collective-bargaining law, which survived a court challenge after eventually passing the Republican-controlled Legislature. The three Democrats are being targeted because they and their Democratic colleagues fled Wisconsin for three weeks to prevent a vote on the measure.

Hansen was the first to face a general election because his challenger had no opposition from his own party, meaning there was no primary.

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Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.

The Associated Press