Wisconsin Recall Effort Starts As Gov. Walker's Foes Start Petition Drive

A plane pulls a pro-recall banner near Green Bay, Wis.' Lambeau Field before the Packers-Minnesota Vikings game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011. i i

hide captionA plane pulls a pro-recall banner near Green Bay, Wis.' Lambeau Field before the Packers-Minnesota Vikings game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

Jeffrey Phelps/AP
A plane pulls a pro-recall banner near Green Bay, Wis.' Lambeau Field before the Packers-Minnesota Vikings game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

A plane pulls a pro-recall banner near Green Bay, Wis.' Lambeau Field before the Packers-Minnesota Vikings game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

Jeffrey Phelps/AP

Opponents of Republican Gov. Scott Walker have formally launched their effort to turn him out of office before his term ends, starting the process of collecting the signatures required to get a recall election on the state ballot.

Walker famously antagonized Democrats, including organized labor, by spearheading the weakening of public-employee unions in the state. Now, Democrats hope to exact revenge.

Tuesday's Morning Edition carried a report from Marti Mickelson of member station WUWM on the start of the recall process in Wisconsin and the attempt by Walker opponents to collect the required 540,000 valid signatures within 60 days. (They'll probably need to collect 700,000 to make sure they have enough once all the invalid signatures are thrown out.)

In the Wisconsin version of Winston Churchill's "We will fight them on the beaches," etc, Mike Tate, head of the state's Democratic Party, is heard in the piece saying of the volunteers who will be gathering signatures:

"You're going to see them everywhere. You'll have people outside the parking lots of shopping malls over the holiday season. There will be people at the deer cleaning stands during deer hunting. We're going to be in every aspect of Wisconsin life wherever there's people."

In other words, if some of those recall petitions are bit bloodstained when they're finally handed in, state officials shouldn't be alarmed.

Recalls of governors, by the way, are rare in U.S. history. As Marti reports, just two governors have been recalled, North Dakota's in 1921 and California's Gray Davis in 2003. (In 1921, North Dakota also ejected from office its attorney general and agriculture commission. Voters really wanted change that year.)

A successful Walker recall is likely to be difficult, Marti reported, because the governor's actions enjoy significant support.

Wisconsin Democrats were able to achieve the recall of two Republican state legislators earlier this year though they failed to reach their goal of recalling three state senators.

That would have given Democrats control of the state senate and allowed them to stop the GOP juggernaut without Democratic lawmakers having to take the extreme step of fleeing the state to prevent a vote in the state house.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a handy page on state recalls that provides perspective on how infrequently the procedure is used to remove state legislators. The list of lawmakers forced from office after being indicted and convicted for criminal behavior is probably far longer.

In Wisconsin, Walker and Republican lawmakers found themselves in political battle with Democrats earlier this year after the GOP policymakers said it was necessary to strip unions of collective-bargaining rights in order to reduce the state's budget deficits.

But Democrats accused the governor of using the fiscal crisis as a pretext to achieve a long-sought piece of the conservative agenda, the defanging of unions that tend to support Democrats.

One of the best lines being used in the current recall effort was spotted in a Wisconsin State Journal story by Samara Kalk Derby: "Don't Let Yer Badgers Grow Up to Be Weasels."

The relevant excerpt:

Two days before the official recall effort targeting Gov. Scott Walker begins, a dozen activists squeezed into an East Side printmaking shop and learned how to make recall posters.

"Don't Let Yer Badgers Grow Up to Be Weasels: Recall Walker" read the posters, which have an image of a cuddly Badger family. The signs, printed by volunteers, were spread out to dry on all the open surfaces at Polka Press printmaking cooperative on Atwood Avenue.

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