Despite her more than 20 years in the state Legislature, Republican Sen. Alberta Darling said Tuesday she is facing an uphill battle to re-election in the .
In an appearance before a media panel at the Milwaukee Press Club, Darling was asked whether she was confident about winning the re-election.
“I’m not sure. It’s going to be about turnout. It’s about turnout,” she replied. “Is this tense for me? Yes. Do I think I’m going to win? I’m giving it my best shot.”
The recall election was brought upon Darling after more than 30,000 signatures were gathered in her 8th Senate District. While the recall effort coincided with the uproar over collective bargaining changes, her opponent, Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch, is campaigning on Darling’s overall influence on shaping Gov. Scott Walker’s budget as a co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee.
Darling said the union-limiting budget repair bill at the center of the controversy has drawn in a lot of outside money for third-party advertisements and canvassing efforts.
“The real reason I’m being recalled is because I took on the special-interest groups,” she said. “It was very clear we were making decisions to make these major reforms for Wisconsin, and if we did what we were going to do, that there would be a lot of angry unions from all over the country that would come into Wisconsin and invest against us.
"A target is on my back because I stood up for the taxpayer and said, 'We will not be beholden to anyone but you.' ”
Darling’s appearance at the press club’s Newsmakers Luncheon comes the day after Pasch to the group. The group invited both Darling and Pasch to debate in the same setting, but Darling declined the offer.
One panel member questioned why the state’s technical schools took a disproportionate cut in the 2011-13 budget, even though Darling touted the benefits of trade schools in growing a skilled manufacturing workforce.
Darling said the technical schools also receive money from tuition and property taxes, so she thought the cut was a tough choice that needed to be made to close a $3.6 billion budget deficit.
Darling said she was elected as an advocate of education, and she remains an advocate for education, despite a more than $800 million cut in aid to school districts across the state.
She said most school districts were able to survive the cuts without cutting teachers, with the help of the budget repair bill, which eliminated most collective bargaining rights. She pointed to the Mequon-Thiensville School District, which she said saved $2.5 million as a result of Walker’s reforms.
“You don’t hear a lot about this, but a lot of the school boards asked us to make the mediation/arbitration changes we did,” she said.
When questioned why she, as a former member of the Planned Parenthood Board of Directors, would deny federal funding for the organization and cause offices across the state to close, Darling said she left the organization 25 or 30 years ago when it "shifted its focus to abortion."
"The Planned Parenthood budget that was in the budget this year, we turned those into health block grants in family planning," she said. "We preserved 90 percent of the money for women health issues but not through the Planned Parenthood organization because many legislators were considered about the funding for abortion."