RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
In Wisconsin today, opponents of the state's Republican governor will deliver petitions to the state's election agency. The move is part of an effort to recall Governor Scott Walker. Thousands of volunteers have spent the past two months canvassing every corner of the state, collecting signatures, as Marti Mikkelson of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports.
MARTI MIKKELSON, BYLINE: Talk of recalling the governor began nearly a year ago, after he signed a bill into law that strips most public unions of collective bargaining rights. Tens of thousands voiced their anger during massive protests at the state capitol, along with 14 Democratic senators fleeing the state for three weeks to delay a vote. But last Friday night the mood was festive.
A band tunes up while dozens of people arrive for a celebration at a tiny recall office on Milwaukee's north side. Party planners are moving furniture and setting up a table for last minute signers as the final hours of the petition drive tick away. Alex McMurtry just signed his name. He recently turned 18 and says he can't wait to vote in a recall election.
ALEX MCMURTRY: It was very unilateral and I think that it was kind of underhanded. You got to send the message that that's not acceptable. You have to listen to the voters of Wisconsin.
MIKKELSON: McMurtry is still in high school and says besides the collective bargaining changes, he's upset about the governor's cuts to education made to help erase a budget deficit.
Later today, a caravan will deliver a huge truckload of petitions to the state elections board. Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate says he was able to recruit 25,000 volunteers to circulate recall petitions and he's all but certain he'll surpass the threshold of 500,000 valid signatures needed for a recall.
MIKE TATE: We've seen an absolute departure from Wisconsin values and I think that there are hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites that took the time to sign this petition because this is how they're exercising their voice.
MIKKELSON: But it remains to be seen if the massive effort will parlay into votes against Walker if there's a recall election. And Republicans say they're ready for a fight. Keith Best works at the GOP's Get Out the Vote office in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb that Walker carried in 2010. He says Scott Walker has lived up to his campaign promises.
KEITH BEST: Governor Walker has campaigned and done what he said he was going to do. He saved the state fiscally. I mean, you look at where some of the other states are. Illinois, for example, has - they had to raise their taxes. Their budget deficit has grown to $13 billion dollars. Wisconsin's is gone.
MIKKELSON: Best and thousands of volunteers across the state will spend the next few months staffing phone banks and putting up yard signs in support of the governor.
State officials estimate it could be June before they verify all signatures and survive court challenges. Don Kettl is dean of the School of Public Policy at the University Of Maryland. He says the outcome could just indicate the political direction the country could face in the fall.
DON KETTL: If Scott Walker wins, then it's a reassurance to the Republican right that they have strong legs that they can stand on in November. On the other hand, if Scott Walker is beaten, it will be a real warning to the Republicans about the dangers of drifting too far to the right.
MIKKELSON: Meanwhile, the governor continues to take advantage of a state law that allows recall targets to raise unlimited amounts of money during a recall period. And he's flooding the airwaves with television ads touting his accomplishments.
For NPR News, I'm Marti Mikkelson in Milwaukee.
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