scott walker, be gone!

topic posted Tue, January 17, 2012 - 3:13 PM by  Gerbil
By Brendan O'Brien

MADISON, Wisconsin | Tue Jan 17, 2012 5:16pm EST

(Reuters) - Organizers of the petition drive to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker submitted what appeared to be more than enough signatures on Tuesday to force the first-term Republican to defend his seat in a special election.

The group United Wisconsin, which opposes the collective bargaining changes and other measures Walker pushed into law last year, said it gathered more than 1 million signatures to recall the governor by the January 17 deadline -- roughly double the 540,208 signatures required.

The signatures represent about a quarter of all votes cast in the state in the 2010 election that brought Walker to power -- a reminder of both the controversy that surrounds the 44-year-old governor and the deep divisions within Wisconsin as it moves into a second round of recall elections triggered by the collective bargaining fight.

The petitions arrived in the state capital on Tuesday in a U-Haul truck decorated with a banner that read, "We did it for Wisconsin's future."

Julie Wells, the factory worker and grandmother who helped trigger the recall effort, took the first of more than 150 boxes into the Government Accountability Board's offices.

"What we have done over the past 60 days for the state of Wisconsin is monumental," Wells told a crowd of about 400 recall supporters.

The petitions must be certified, but with a gubernatorial recall election increasingly likely, Walker faces the prospect of becoming just the third governor in history to be recalled.

Still, Wisconsin remains remarkably split and it is possible that Walker could survive a special election.

Last summer, after forging ahead with an agenda that included the successful passage of voter ID and concealed carry legislation, six Republican senators faced recall. Ultimately, only two were recalled.

In a statement, Brad Courtney, the chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, called the latest recall effort "shameful" and predicted it would "accomplish nothing but saddle Wisconsin taxpayers with over $9 million in unbudgeted costs" related to the special election.

So far, no Democrat has emerged to run against Walker, though Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran for governor against Walker in 2010 and Secretary of State Doug La Follette have been mentioned as possible candidates.

"We very clearly believe there is no challenge -- legal or otherwise -- that would prevent these elections from going forward," said Mike Tate, the head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

As many as 17 Wisconsin state senators -- 11 Republicans and six Democrats -- could face special recall elections this year in contests triggered by last year's fight over union rights and other Republican-backed measures.

Indeed recall organizers on Tuesday also submitted what they said were enough recall petitions to force four Republican state senators, including Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, as well as Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, into special elections defending their seats later this year.

The elections could tip the balance of power in the state Senate, where Republicans currently hold a 17-16 majority.

But they may also provide an early glimpse of how closely fought the 2012 presidential race will be in key Midwestern states like Wisconsin, where voters backed Barack Obama in 2008 but handed victories to Republicans in the 2010 midterms.

In a statement, Walker seemed to accept that the recall drive would be certified and a special election scheduled.

"I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget, and hold the line on taxes," he said.

Officials at the state's Government Accountability Board said last week they may need more than 60 days to verify the signatures submitted on Tuesday. Currently, the law requires the process to be completed in 31 days.

According to a Government Accountability Board report, processing recall petitions will cost the state more than $650,000. The total cost of recall elections for the state and municipalities may be more than $9 million, according to estimates from board officials.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Writing by James B. Kelleher; editing by Paul Thomasch)
posted by:
    January 17, 2012
    Organizers Say 1 Million Signed Petition to Recall Wisconsin Governor

    Critics of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin on Tuesday said they had collected more than 1 million signatures, or nearly twice as many as required, on petitions to recall Mr. Walker and force a new election.

    State officials now begin the arduous and expensive process of studying the petitions for flaws and duplicated names, but leaders of the recall effort say the number of signatures is so large as to put any serious legal challenge out of reach. Mr. Walker’s critics needed only 540,208 signatures, and had estimated that they would reach at least 720,000 — so the still larger number came as a surprise to many.

    Barring a legal fight, Mr. Walker, a Republican who took office a year ago and set off a firestorm by curtailing benefits and collective bargaining rights for public workers, will face a new election in the late spring or early summer. Nationally, only two governors have ever been removed through recall.

    “This sends a message,” said Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, who described the 1 million names as evidence that this was the largest signature drive for a recall effort in United States history.

    Mr. Walker was scheduled to attend a fund-raiser in New York on Tuesday, but in an earlier interview he had said he believed a recall election now appeared inevitable, but that he thought he would ultimately keep his job.

    On Tuesday, his campaign office issued a statement on his behalf about the petitions. “I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget and hold the line on taxes,” Mr. Walker said. “In my first year in office, we did just that by eliminating a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, all while the state added thousands of new jobs. Instead of going back to the days of billion dollar budget deficits, double-digit tax increases and record job loss, I expect Wisconsin voters will stand with me and keep moving Wisconsin forward.”

    In what was to be a jubilant, carefully orchestrated celebration in Madison, volunteers, including Democrats and union supporters, from all over the state planned later Tuesday afternoon to submit the petitions to the Government Accountability Board, the state agency that oversees elections. With some fanfare, a truck was to carry the petitions — all 3,000 pounds of them — to the board’s offices.

    Ryan Lawler, a board member for United Wisconsin, the group that led the two-month signature collection effort, said the number of signers was a clear indication of the size of the emotions involved.

    “Scott Walker and his supporters tried to demean and marginalize recall circulators, but in Wisconsin winter, an army of more than 30,000 Wisconsin born-and-bred recall volunteers took to street corners, malls, places of worship, dinner tables and sidewalks to take their state back,” he said.

    Petitions were also submitted on Tuesday for recall elections of the lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch (845,000 signatures were gathered on hers), and four Republican state senators, including Scott Fitzgerald, the majority leader who helped pass Mr. Walker’s collective bargaining cuts over the protests of Democrats, who fled the state last year to block a vote.

    Democrats, who are in the minority in the State Senate, 17 to 16, hope to seize at least one seat and take control. Nine recall elections last summer led to two Senate seats changing hands, but leaving Republicans in the majority.

    Democrats had controlled both legislative chambers and the governor’s office before the election of 2010, when Republicans, including Mr. Walker, swept into office.
    1-million-plus sign on to Walker recall vote

    Article by: JIM RAGSDALE
    Star Tribune
    January 17, 2012 - 9:30 PM

    MADISON, WIS. - Nearly a year after they ringed the State Capitol with massive protests, opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker returned Tuesday armed with more than 1 million signatures demanding a recall election that could end his tenure.

    It would be Wisconsin's first gubernatorial recall election and only the third in U.S. history.

    Shouting "This is what democracy looks like!" and singing "We Shall Overcome," volunteers, union activists and Democratic partisans delivered a truckload of petitions to the state's Government Accountability Board, virtually assuring that Walker will face a recall election this year, probably in the summer.

    The total delivered to the board, which is charged with verifying the petitions and determining whether an election should be held, is 460,000 signatures beyond what is needed to trigger a recall of the Republican governor. Walker is beginning his second year in office and has made a law to curb public employee unions one of his centerpiece achievements.

    Ryan Lawler, a vice chairman of United Wisconsin, the umbrella recall group, said the number of signatures is "beyond legal challenge," and supporters urged Walker's forces to avoid challenges and prepare for an election.

    "We call on Scott Walker to stand before the people as soon as possible," said Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

    'Total recall' ahead?

    Walker, 44, who has said for months that he expected to face a recall election this year, defended his record Tuesday and expressed hope that voters will "stand with me and keep moving Wisconsin forward."

    Walker said he looks forward to talking to voters "about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget and hold the line on taxes." He added that he eliminated a $3.6 billion deficit last year without raising taxes.

    Wisconsin law allows for the recall of public officials for political reasons, so long as petitioners garner at least 25 percent of the signatures of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Tuesday's petitions were aimed not just at Walker. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, are also the target of petition drives and could face recall elections.

    That would add to the sense of "total recall" that has swept Wisconsin since Republicans took the governorship and both houses of the Legislature in 2010. Last summer, there were nine recall elections of state senators, and two Republicans were unseated.

    It is not clear how long it will take the board to examine the petitions or whether there will be court challenges. Most observers predict that the gubernatorial recount would occur no sooner than June and possibly be later in the summer.

    Attention will shift next from the petition drive to finding the right Democratic challenger.

    Potential candidates include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010; former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, who failed in runs for governor in 2002 and attorney general in 2006; David Obey, a former longtime congressman from northwestern Wisconsin; and state Sens. Tim Cullen, a moderate Democrat, and Jon Erpenbach, a leader of the Democrats who fled the state last winter to keep the Senate from approving the anti-union bill.

    The election would serve as a prelude to the presidential battle in this battleground state, and Erpenbach said he believes it will have national implications because Democrats feel they are fighting an assault on the middle class. But he said the Democrats will not win with a simple protest candidate.

    "'Vote for me because I'm not Scott Walker' is not going to do it," Erpenbach said.

    There are larger implications to the recall for Republicans as well. Walker is a hero to his side for standing up to public employee unions and forcing those workers to accept many of the same sacrifices that have been asked of private-sector workers.

    "When Wisconsin voters went to the polls in 2010, they wanted a leader who would make tough decisions to turn the state around," said Ben Sparks, spokesman for the Wisconsin Republican Party. Voters, he argued, got what they wanted.

    One of the senators subject to the recall effort, Van Wanggaard of Racine, said the recalls will cost the state money it cannot afford and argued that the Democrats planned for them even before losing in 2010.

    "It is their attempt to have a revote," he said.

    Chilly celebration

    Despite snow flurries and an icy wind, the liberal enclave of Madison had a celebratory atmosphere Tuesday.

    Lisa Sheldon of Janesville was among the volunteers who carried a box of signatures to the state offices Tuesday. She rolled up in a wheelchair due to a recently broken ankle, but she broke into a broad grin when supporters cheered her.

    "One million!" she exulted.

    Larry Peters, a union bus mechanic and petition gatherer from Green Bay, attended the event with his dog, Fritz.

    "It's supposed to be 'We the people,' not 'We the Walker,'" Peters said. "What his bill did is say the things we bargained for for 40 years were no longer in existence."

    Pat Arndorfer of Sun Prairie linked the Madison protests to worldwide uprisings.

    "I'm a spiritual person, and I believe there's a shift in consciousness happening,'' Arndorfer said. "This is just part of a global change that's going on right now. People are rising up and taking back the power."

    Andy Andre, a mechanical engineer from Glendale, hefted a huge papier-mâché icon of Walker. He said the union changes didn't bother him, but he felt Walker and Republicans have not used their power properly.

    "When people abuse the power the way they did, one has to stand up and be counted," he said.

    While governors have been removed from office through impeachment, only two U.S. governors have been recalled by voters: Gray Davis in California in 2003 and Lynn Frazier in North Dakota in 1921.

    Recall supporters said their million-signature effort -- the exact number was not available Tuesday -- represents 46 percent of those voting in the last gubernatorial election and comes close to the 1.12 million votes Walker received.

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