MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The clock is ticking for opponents of Republican Gov. Scott Walker who are hoping to force a recall election next year and are spurred by anger over his successful push to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers.
The petition drive to collect more than 540,000 signatures began in the early morning hours Tuesday, with more than 100 events planned across the state to start gathering them all. Recall supporters must collect 9,000 signatures a day to meet the target.
Lisa Tareski of Milwaukee, who voted for Walker, was one of eight people who won a contest sponsored by the Democratic Party to be the first to sign the petitions.
“I want to fix my mistake and be one of the first to tell Scott Walker that he did not have my full support in 2010 and he never will,” Tareski said in a statement.
Walker recall organizers hope to tap ongoing anger over the collective bargaining law, which took away public employee unions’ power to negotiate anything other than wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation, and build on momentum from last week’s vote rejecting a similar law in Ohio. Wisconsin doesn’t allow for a referendum challenging its law to be put on the ballot, so opponents are targeting Walker and at least three state senators for recall.
The governor said Monday he was trying not to get distracted by the recall and would remain focused on his 2010 campaign pledge to grow jobs in the state by 250,000 before the four-year term he was elected to serve is over.
He defended his record and said voters were ready to move forward and didn’t want to get stuck in an endless campaign cycle.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Walker said. “It’s a new day in Wisconsin.”
He launched his first television ad of the campaign, defending his record while the words “Recall: No” appeared on the screen. The ad was running statewide, except in Milwaukee, according to Walker’s campaign manager Keith Gilkes.
Walker said in an interview that he planned a series of ads with people talking about how his initiatives are working in their communities as well as his plans for the future.
“We really believe people want to hear about where we’re headed,” Walker said. “I think it’s important for people to hear my positive vision.”
Republicans currently hold a narrow one-seat majority in the state Senate after two GOP incumbents were ousted in recall elections this summer.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he expected to be targeted for recall in addition to three of his colleagues who defeated Democratic incumbents last year. Democrats said they planned to start recalls against Sens. Van Wanggaard of Racine, Pam Galloway of Wausau and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls.
Governors have been recalled from office only twice in U.S. history, in North Dakota in 1921 and in California when voters removed Gov. Gray Davis from office in 2003.
“Any recall attempts filed will be nothing more than a shameless power grab by the Democrats and their liberal special interests, and will not deter Republicans from moving the state forward under responsible leadership,” Republican Party spokeswoman Nicole Larson said.
Democrats do not yet have an announced candidate to take on Walker should enough signatures be collected to force an election. The earliest such an election could occur, without any expected delays in verifying the signatures or legal challenges, is March 27. Most expect any election would be later in the spring or in the summer.
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