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.
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Last week, the Government Accountability Board, the state agency tasked with public elections, reported that the recall election would cost taxpayers $9 million, a figure that both sides are using to their advantage in their ongoing public relations campaign. Republicans are characterizing Democrats as wasteful in their mission to vilify Walker, while Democrats say the state money – a total sum spread across more than 2,000 municipalities – is worth the effort.Skip to next paragraph
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Mike Tate, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, acknowledged in a recent statement that the $9 million price tag was “great,” but added “the cost of doing nothing is far greater. This undertaking is the biggest investment in the future of our state and families we can make.”
Who might be angling for Walker’s seat is not yet certain. The single candidate who has publicly expressed interest so far is state Sen. Tim Cullen, a longtime moderate who served in the state Senate from 1974 to 1987 and then ran again and won in 2010.
Other possible contenders include former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, former US Rep. Dave Obey, Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca, US Rep. Ron Kind, and Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin. The most likely, and best-known, candidate is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010.
When the recall election would be held is also uncertain. If the signatures are verified without contest, state elections officials say, the earliest it could be held is late March, although if either side requests a primary, it could be as late as June.
A loophole in state law allows both sides to raise unlimited sums. Walker is at an advantage: He reportedly raised more than $5.1 million late last year and is expected to almost double that in the coming months.
“The law benefits Walker, and gives him more time to raise big bucks,” says Mr. Burden.
All eyes are on the signature count starting this week and expected to take place in a state-owned building in Madison that was being prepared with surveillance cameras and barbed wire security gates. A county circuit court ruled last week that election officials must verify each signature for accuracy, a task usually reserved for the petitioning party and the opposition.
The added burden means more time and money. The month-long process will now likely be stretched to at least 60 days and it will now involve $100,000 in computer software and technical assistance. The new hardware will electronically read and create a database of signatures that staffers will then review individually.
The expected number of signatures up for review: 1.5 million.
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