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Gov. Scott Walker vs. unions: Wisconsin set to count recall petitions (+video)

Petitions calling for the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who emerged last year as the national face of anti-union legislation, are due Tuesday. Signature-counting is set to begin this week.

By Staff writer / January 17, 2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center left, and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, center right, participate in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Monday, in Madison, Wis. Organizers of efforts to recall both Walker and Kleefisch from office plan to turn in petitions with more than 540,000 signatures Tuesday to force a recall election. Also pictured, from left, is Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, state Superintendent Tony Evers and University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor David Ward.

Scott Bauer/AP

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Petitions calling for a recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker are due Tuesday, and as Wisconsin gears up to count signatures, analysts say it’s near certain that the recall election – the final phase of a partisan struggle that began with a showdown over unions last February – will go forward.

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Six Republicans are being targeted this round, but most of the focus has been on Governor Walker, who emerged last year as the national face of anti-union legislation and is considered the most vulnerable.

With the opposition saying they have more than enough signatures to trigger the recall election, it is no longer a matter of “if” the election will happen, but “when,” most observers say.

“Everyone anticipates it will happen,” says Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “This does feel like a final judgment.”

Wisconsin voters already sacked two Republican state senators in a recall election last summer, after a contentious spring when the Republican majority in the Legislature passed a bill that weakened public-sector unions in the state. In addition to Walker, the recall efforts this time target Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.

If the recall election succeeds, Walker will be only the third governor in US history removed from office by a recall. The last was former California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, in 2003.

Democrats say they have collected more than the 540,208 signatures required by state law to make the recall election happen. In a speech this month at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, Walker said he is resigned to the reality of the election taking place midway through his first term.

He said the state’s union leadership wants his ouster only because, under the new rule, unions can no longer deduct dues automatically from paychecks of public-sector employees.

“What it really comes down to, I took away the gravy train, the free money they had before, and gave that right back to the workers to make that decision,” the governor said.

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