It’s the big day in Wisconsin: After two months of collecting petitions, state Democrats will officially turn in a vast number of signatures collected in order to trigger a recall election against Gov. Scott Walker.
In December, the Democrats announced that they had collected over 507,000 signatures in 30 days, getting very close to the legal threshold of just over 540,000 signatures in 60 days. (The party also told TPM at the time that this 507,000 figure takes into account also own efforts to weed out bad signatures.) They also said that they were working towards an even greater goal of 720,000 total, in order to have an absolute buffer against disqualifications.
State Democratic party spokesman Graeme Zielinski told TPM on Monday: “We’re confident that we will hit that mark.”
Over the weekend, the party announced a series of 22 petition turn-in parties around the state, for supporters to hand in the final petitions. And to keep momentum going, they also announced last week a “Recall Victory Day Schedule” for Tuesday — including the big petition drop-off at 3 p.m. CT, plus a victory party right near the state Capitol building.
When asked for comment by TPM, Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews denounced the rallies.
“The Democrats have already held 22 parties to celebrate costing Wisconsin taxpayers $9 million for this baseless recall,” said Matthews. “Throwing parties to celebrate a taxpayer-funded recall election is an insult to Governor Walker’s successful reforms and Wisconsin families who are benefiting from them. Tomorrow’s events are just further celebration of big-government union bosses $9 million power grab.”
Matthews also said the Democrats’ have set high a bar bar for themselves.
“The Democrats have said since the beginning of the recall effort their goal was to collect 1 million signatures. The amount they turn in [Tuesday], will likely fall far short of that goal. Governor Walker won with an overwhelming majority in 2010 and we are confident that the voters of Wisconsin will not let blatantly false accusations of what Gov. Walker’s reforms have accomplished to prematurely end his term.”
From there, of course, the next step is to have an actual candidate to oppose Walker. Recalls in Wisconsin do not feature any direct up-or-down vote on the incumbent, but instead effectively take the form of a special election with the incumbent and a challenger fighting it out to serve the rest of the term. Now that the petitions are being turned in — after a period in which the party’s open preference was to keep the political focus on Walker — it should not be long until candidates come forward.
Previously, the Democrats had said that they would aim to unite around a single candidate.
Now, however, a primary is looking more likely, with many Democratic names being talked about as potential candidates: State Sen. Tim Cullen (who has openly said he will run in a primary); Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (who was previously Walker’s Democratic opponent in 2010); former U.S. Rep. David Obey; state Sen. Jon Erpenbach; former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and state Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.
So all in all, this is just the latest step in a very long election year saga for Wisconsin.
The state last year achieved national fame (or infamy), for Walker’s legislation stripping public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights — and the waves of protests that filled the state Capitol and other locations, followed by a summer of state Senate recall campaigns that attracted tens of millions of dollars in political spending.
Wisconsin Democrats, faced with a 19-14 Republican majority in the state Senate, attempted to mount a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation, by recalling their way to a majority. However, they were hampered by the fact that the only recall-eligible districts were ones where the incumbent had won their terms in 2008, even during that year’s Democratic wave.
In the end, Democrats were able to pick up two seats, just short of the magic number of three, for a narrow 17-16 Republican majority. Out of the recall campaigns that were waged by both parties, four incumbent Republicans and three Democrats retained their seats, while two Republicans lost to Democratic challengers.