Recall organizers filed petitions with more than a million signatures Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 17, seeking to force a recall election against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The large number seemingly assures a historic recall election against the first-term governor for later this year.
The sheer number of signatures being filed–nearly as many as the 1,128,941 votes cast for Walker in November 2010, and twice as many as what was needed to trigger a recall election–ensure the election will almost definitely be held, said officials with the state Democratic Party and United Wisconsin, the group that launched the Walker recall.
“What this means is that every little drop paid off in the end,” said Jackie Cody, the local organizer of the recall effort in Oneida County. “That number certainly exceeded everyone’s expectations, but I wouldn’t say we’re surprised by the outpouring of support.”
Recent figures indicate that a statewide recall election against Walker could cost the state and local governments as much as $9 million. That figure is for one statewide election only, and could rise higher if there is a primary needed to pick a Democrat to run against Walker. Cody said she wouldn’t be surprised if there were a primary, or at least some sort of statewide Democratic convention, in order to determine who the party would run against Walker.
“The drive for recall signatures was really a people-driven movement, so I feel that the people need to have a say on who runs for the office,” said Cody.
The paper petitions, weighing 1.5 tons, were delivered by truck to the state’s Government Accountability Board’s office two blocks from the Capitol in Madison. Next begins the likely months-long process of reviewing the petitions. If the board determines enough valid signatures have been filed, it will call an election.
To trigger the recall election, 540,208 signatures are needed, a figure equivalent to 25 percent of all the votes cast in the November 2010 election that put Walker in office. While she expects many signatures to be challenged, and some to be invalidated, the sheer number submitted ensures that the effort was successful, according to Cody.
“This is what happens when a weasel picks a fight with a badger,” said Cody. Cody said that she isn’t sure exactly how many recall signatures came from Oneida County.
“We have 26,000 eligible voters in this county, and I would estimate that at least 30 to 40 percent of those voters signed recall petitions,” said Cody. “I’m very excited for everyone who circulated recall petitions. We had people who were disappointed that they didn’t fill up their lists with 10 signatures, and I’d always tell them that, regardless of how many signatures they had, it meant there were more than before they walked in the door.”
In response, the Friends of Scott Walker campaign issued a statement from Gov. Walker Tuesday afternoon regarding the deadline for collecting signatures on recall 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. 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.”
The recall election is expected to be held in summer, either mid-June at the earliest, but more likely early July.
As for potential candidates to run against Walker, State Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville has already said he will run. Other potential candidates that have expressed some level of interest in the seat include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010; former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk; and former District 7 U.S. Congressman Dave Obey. Obey retired from Congress before the 2010 election, and Republican Sean Duffy of Ashland beat out Democrat Julie Lassa of Stevens Point for the seat that was held by Obey for nearly four decades. Even Mahlon Mitchell, the President of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin union, has been touted as a potential candidate. Mitchell, along with Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell, were the featured speakers at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua on Jan. 16.
For her part, Cody said she wouldn’t be surprised if a relative political newcomer were ultimately chosen to run for the position.
“The thing about this race is that, with the amount of attention it has and will receive on both the state and national level, if a political newcomer or relative unknown were the pick to run against Walker, they wouldn’t be unknown for long,” said Cody.
Figures from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and JSOnline.com were used for this report.
Star Journal Editor Craig Mandli is available at email@example.com.