Walker Opponents Kick Off Recall Efforts

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 four state senators for recall.

One organizer with United Wisconsin, the group behind the recall effort, said it was a dream come to true delivering the paperwork to the Government Accountability Board.

But organizers said they know the dream won’t become reality without support.

“Worst thing that can happen is nothing will change,” said Ruth Gundlach, a volunteer collecting petition signatures. “I spent 31 years of my career building a labor union that (Gov. Walker), with the stroke of a pen, eliminated like it was nothing.”

Armed with a message-bearing clipboard, Gundlach said she hopes to change the course of government history one signature at a time.

Recall organizers need a little more than 540,000 signatures before Jan. 13 to trigger a recall election against Walker.

“We got to get back together as a state, and that’s what this recall is going to do,” said Professional Firefighters Of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell. “Get back together, all on the same page, and move our state forward.”

Those supporting the governor said the people of Wisconsin have already spoken.

“Over the summer, the recall movement wasn’t able to take back the majority in the Senate,” said David Summers, with the Dane County Young Republicans. “So I think they’re starting a couple points behind. They were pretty deflated after that.”

But on the first day of the recall effort, those ready to sign are hoping to make their mark.

“Essentially (Walker is) reaping what he sowed,” said Ben Brunner, a voter who signed the recall petition. “He made some very unpopular decisions with the people, and I’d like to see him pay for it.”

“We’re going wherever the people are,” said Gundlach. “I’m going to be out on Black Friday, going down the lines.”

Organizers said they’re aiming for 14,000 signatures a day before the deadline, which would put them well above the threshold to trigger an election.

Meanwhile, Walker supporters said they’re ready to fight back. Dane County Young Republicans and UW College Republicans hosted a “Recall the Recall” event Tuesday night.

Republican Rep. Robin Vos rallied people to volunteer and help keep Walker in office. Protesters in the crowd interrupted his speech, claiming the Republican agenda has not helped working families. Security removed the protesters among chants of “Let’s go Walker.”

“A recall is unnecessary. It’s going to be a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s going to be a waste of money for donors. It’s a waster of energy for all the volunteers and everybody in Wisconsin,” said Johnny Koremenos, chairman of the UW College Republicans.

UW College Republicans said they’re ready to mobilize people and campaign around the state if the recall effort is successful.

Organizers In Green, Rock Counties Gather Signatures

Outside of Dane County, organizers were also busy Tuesday gathering signatures to trigger a recall.

Organizers with United Wisconsin hit the ground running at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in Monroe to get signatures.

Green County volunteers looking to oust Walker said he’s not doing enough to put people back to work.

“When we talk about 250,000 new jobs, I haven’t seen that yet, and I’m still required to pay taxes down here; so it’s tough,” said Laura Placek, a Green County coordinator for United Wisconsin.

“I do two jobs. I clean people’s houses. I’m even selling on eBay to make ends meet. So I’m doing what they ask to make money, but you know what? We need some help here,” said Amy Sloan, a Green County coordinator for United Wisconsin.

WCLO radio talk show host Tim Bremel said Rock County residents are just as passionate about the possibility of a recall election.

“We’re getting a fair amount of calls into the talk show. I’d say, however, they are running predominately against the idea of a recall as a solution to the problem,” Bremel said.

Volunteers in Janesville are also collecting signatures against Walker, but Rock County Republican Party Chairman Jason Mielke said he isn’t worried. He hit to the airwaves to rally supporters.

“We’re actually pretty excited about this recall effort, because it gives us a chance to show the majority of the people out there in Wisconsin care about the state, and they want to see the state return to the path of prosperity,” Mielke said.

No matter what side of the issue people are on or what community they are in, Bremel said the debate helps fuel democracy.

“I don’t think people should be afraid to voice their opinion on either side. Hopeful that’s the way, sometime in the future, to move us past this very polarizing environment to realize there’s a bit of truth on both sides,” Bremel said.

Mielke said the Rock County Republican Party for now will keep a close eye on the signatures collected. He said that in January they plan to open an office to begin passing out literature and to rally supporters of the governor.

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.

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.