Recall Moves Forward Without Obvious Walker Challenger

The effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker has continued despite the fact that his opponents haven’t publicly rallied around a particular candidate to oppose him as yet.

With the petitions turned in to the Government Accountability Board on Tuesday, which will verify the petition signatures, the prospect of an election might still be months away. This would leave time for a Democratic Party primary and fundraising activities to commence.

After turning in more than 1 million petition signatures Tuesday, almost double the number needed to force a recall election against Walker, recall supporters gathered at the Monona Terrace on Tuesday night to celebrate their efforts and prepare for the fight ahead.

“The last election was an anomaly. It was a perfect storm for Republican candidates, and across this nation, good people lost their election. Not because they weren’t good, but because the public simply made some choices in which they are now second-guessing their own decision,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.

Democratic Party and union leaders have said they’re not concerned about not having someone actively running against Walker and trying to match his fundraising. In fact, they say it was part of their strategy.

“It forced Walker and his minions to run on their record and issues rather than to run against an announced Democratic candidate,” said Marty Beil, president of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, the largest union of state workers. “That was part of the rationale through the whole recall petition collection process. We’re talking to candidates. At this point, we don’t have a candidate. Maybe there has to be a primary, but that’s what democracy is about.”

Walker and his allies said organized labor will decide the Democratic candidate. Public workers and their unions have been a driving force behind the recall effort, helping provide the manpower needed to circulate petitions.

The two most high profile possibilities — former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl — have repeatedly said they’re not interested.

“I think we need somebody with some sanity and a level head, who really cares about the people, represents the interests of the people, which is clearly what we don’t have now. So I think if we find that person, they’ll win by a landslide,” said Brian Austin, of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association.

State Sen. Tim Cullen has said he intends to take on Walker but hasn’t made a formal announcement or been actively campaigning. He said he expects and welcomes a Democratic primary, which likely would be held in May, although the timing will be unclear until possible delays related to the signature verification process and any legal challenges are resolved.

“If there’s not a primary, then who’s actually deciding this?” Cullen said.

“You never know with a primary. Sometimes the primaries can be great because sometimes the strongest candidate emerges from a primary. Other times, if it gets to be too divisive, it can be harmful,” said Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

Other potential candidates include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom Walker beat by 5 percentage points in 2010, retired Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, current U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach and state Rep. Peter Barca.