Mike Tate, the Chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, announced last night on The Ed Show that his party, in conjunction with the organization United Wisconsin, would initiate a recall petition for Governor Scott Walker on November 15, starting a two-month process to gather signatures.
Under Wisconsin law, politicians at the state level must be in office one year before a recall petition with the required signatures can be filed. Walker was inaugurated on January 3, 2011. If the Wisconsin Democrats begin gathering signatures on November 15, they will have until January 13 to collect them. So they’re wasting no time here. And they have a pretty formidable task in front of them: in order to qualify for the ballot, they must collect 540,206 signatures, or 25% of the electorate in the last statewide election, to trigger the recall. United Wisconsin has a decent-sized jump on this task, as they have collected a database of over 200,000 Wisconsinites who have already said they would sign a recall petition against Walker.
Tate first made the announcement in a blog post on the state party website, where he also solicited donations to go toward the recall. As of last night, they had already received $50,000 for that purpose.
In addition to recalling Walker, Wisconsin can recall other members of the legislature sworn in back in January, including state Senators who won elections in 2010. Tate told Chris Bowers that the party would “work with citizen-driven, grassroots efforts to recall additional Republican state senators.” Right now, just flipping one seat in the state Senate would turn the balance of power over to the Democrats, after the ouster of two Senate Republicans in the summer recall elections.
If the 540,206 signatures are successfully gathered, the recall election would be held sometime next spring. According to Emily Mills, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in Wisconsin, said it would be mathematically impossible for the recall to fall on the same day as the statewide Presidential primary, which would obviously draw more Republicans this election year. (Ed. Note: To be clear, the spokesman for the GAB is Reid Gabney, not Mills. Mills interviewed the spokesman.)
The earliest possible date for the recall would be March 27, but that assumes no delays or challenges in counting signatures, and no primary elections in the recall, which would push the general election out by four weeks. Earlier this year, Republicans ran spoiler candidates against Democrats to create primaries, giving their state Senators an extra month to campaign and fundraise. So more likely is a late April or early May recall date. Under the current schedule, the Wisconsin Presidential primary and spring election is set for April 3.
State Democrats are focusing on the signature gathering process before casting about for a challenger to Walker in the elections. Several names have been discussed, including former Congressman David Obey, current Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.
Walker begins the recall process on slightly better footing than he had at the height of the controversy over the anti-union law he eventually pushed through the legislature. But Democratic passions still run high over Walker, and the recent John Doe investigation into many of his staffers has put him back in the spotlight. State Republicans have recently sought to make the recall process more difficult through a series of legislative actions, but it’s unclear whether or not they will be prepared in time for the effort to recall Walker.
The Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin is voted on the same ticket as the Governor, so it’s unclear what a Walker recall would mean for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The Government Accountability Board has sought a legal opinion on this.