In Wisconsin, a recall of historic proportions
Wisconsin voters are on the verge of making history, with a recall vote of epic proportions, never seen in this country before.
Organizers targeted every one of the 16 eligible senators (meaning they’ve been in office for at least one year) — eight Democratic and eight Republican — for their votes and behavior pertaining to Act 10, also known as the budget repair bill.
Republicans are targeted for their votes in favor of Act 10, which would restrict collective bargaining rights among public employees, as well as a perceived subversion of the democratic process with a hasty committee vote on an altered form of the bill; Democrats are on the block for opposing Gov. Walker’s reforms or their 3-week flight to Illinois to stall the vote.
Who’s on the block?
Petitions against nine senators have been submitted to the Government Accountability Board, the first step toward a recall election. Each petition must contain qualified, unique signatures totaling at least 25% of the votes cast for the office being recalled in the previous election. If the submitted petition is ratified, a recall election can move forward.
The effort against the Republican senators has been more successful, as Sens. Alberta Darling (River Hills), Robert Cowles (Green Bay), Sheila Harsdorf (River Falls), Luther Olsen (Ripon), Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac) and Dan Kapanke (La Crosse) could face recall election races. Three Democratic senators — Dave Hansen (Green Bay), Jim Holperin (Conover) and Robert Wirch (Pleasant Prairie) — may also end up on recall ballots.
Failed recall attempts were made against Democratic senators Lena Taylor and Spencer Coggs (both of Milwaukee), Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (Monona) and Fred Risser (Madison), as well as Republicans Glenn Grothman (West Bend) and Mary Lazich (New Berlin).
Last week the GAB won a court request to extend the 31-day review period for the petitions, since there is such an unprecedented number to verify. That board has also requested to hold all the recall elections on July 12. If more than one candidate from either party runs for a recalled seat, the July 12 elections will serve as primaries in those races, with final elections on August 9.
Wisconsin is one of only 18 states that allow for the recall of state representatives. Of those 18, only 5 states have actually recalled elected officials: a total 20 recalls since 1913, with only 13 of those successful.
Two of those recalls were right here in Wisconsin. In 2003, voters removed Sen. Gary George (D-Milwaukee) from office after he sided with Republicans to override a veto of Gov. Jim Doyle’s gaming compact with the state’s Indian Tribes. In 1996, Sen. George Petak (R-Racine) was recalled after he flipped his vote from “no” to “yes” on the construction of Miller Park and the attendant sales tax district established to fund the construction.
Milwaukee County is familiar with recall elections. In 2002, seven county supervisors were ousted in recalls tied to the pension scandal that also saw County Executive Tom Ament step down from office.
And La Crosse has seen its share, with the 1977 removal of five school board members.
But with nine, possibly ten, senators facing recall elections this summer, Wisconsin will set the standard by which all other recall elections are measured.
Even though the recall petitions haven’t been certified, candidates are already staking a claim to oppose the incumbents.
- State Rep. Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse) has thrown her hat in the ring against Dan Kapanke. She cited the senator’s vote for Walker’s budget repair bill as the main reason for seeking the seat.
- Jessica King is looking for a rematch against Randy Hopper. King, the deputy mayor of Oshkosh and a city council member, lost to Hopper by 163 votes in 2008. The Hopper recall campaign gathered 23,946 signatures; only 15,269 were needed.
- The battle for Luther Olsen’s seat could be a circus, as Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo) has entered the big top. Clark has served in the assembly since 2008 and said he is surprised to even be running for a state senate seat.
- No one has stepped forward to challenge Robert Cowles and there are no seated Democratic representatives in the district who seem to want to move up. But the Democratic challengers from previous Assembly races are said to be considering a shot at Cowles.
Sam Dunlop is a former two-term City of De Pere councilman who lost to current Rep. Phil Montgomery. While Dunlop finished within five points of Montgomery in 2010, he is not sure if he is the right man at this time. Mert Summers may also be considering a run at Cowles, but his loss in the 2010 Assembly race to Rep. Jim Steineke by 15 points would make his battle in a strongly-Republican district difficult.
Sheila Harsdorf’s recall organizers collected over 22,000 signatures, 7,000 more than needed to get Harsdorf’s name on the ballot. The recall campaign has said a candidate to oppose Harsdorf will be announced today.
- Former State Representative Sheldon Wasserman, who served in the assembly for 14 years before running and losing to Alberta Darling in 2008, is rumored to be considering a second shot at the 8th district seat. State Rep. Sandy Patsch (D-Whitefish Bay) will announce Thursday whether she will also enter the race.
As for the recalls elections against Democratic incumbents, the GOP has yet to put up a candidate.
- Tim Holperin could face a challenge from current Rep. Tom Tiffany or Oconto County GOP Chair Kevin Barthel. Tiffany has run for the 12th Senate district twice before, losing to Holperin in 2008. Barthel filed a lawsuit earlier this year to compel Holperin’s return from Illinois, after he fled there at the beginning of the budget repair bill fight.
- Robert Wirch still does not have a declared opponent, even though the recall petition campaign against him received major press coverage. Recall organizer Dan Hunt has hinted that if someone better qualified doesn’t step forward to run against Wirch, he will consider filing candidacy papers.
- No one has even hinted at being interested as running on the Republican ticket against Dave Hansen, currently the Assembly’s Assistant Minority Leader.
Recall of Governor?
Anger over Act 10, forwarded by Walker, is driving the recalls, and it’s no surprise that talk of recalling the governor has been loud and strong, especially among the protesters marching in Madison over the last few months. Like all other public officials, Walker is not eligible for recall until he serves at least one year. According to the GAB, recall petitions against Walker cannot be circulated until early November 2011, and cannot be filed until January 3, 2012.
The number of signatures required to trigger a recall election for Governor is 540,208, or one-quarter of the 2,160,832 votes cast for Governor in the November 2010 General Election.