Amid all the speculation about whether Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will be a candidate in the recall election, we are neglecting an even more important question: Will Gov. Scott Walker be a candidate in the recall?
At this point, there’s no reason to assume he won’t be. According to polling, the governor, who has been carpet-bombing the airwaves with campaign ads, is in a relatively good position to run for re-election. Furthermore, none of his declared opponents are particularly well-known or widely popular.
But who knows what the ongoing John Doe investigation will turn up next? If, for instance, Walker is indicted, the best thing he could do for his party and agenda would be to resign.
In a year where the governor facing a likely recall election is unusual enough, a Walker resignation would only add to the surreal atmosphere. Existing statutes do not provide clear answers on what would happen to the current recall effort in such a scenario, but Democrats can breathe a partial sigh of relief: Contrary to what some in the blogosphere and press have suggested, the whole thing would likely not be moot.
Here's how it could play out, according to Mike Haas, staff attorney with the Government Accountability Board, which oversees election matters:
If Walker resigned within 10 days of the recall petitions being certified by the GAB, he would not be on the ballot and other Republicans would be able to vie for the nomination in a primary. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would become governor and could appoint a new lieutenant governor. Nothing, however, would stop the recall election from going forward.
The winner of the gubernatorial election would assume the office.
However, if Walker were to resign more than 10 days after the recall petitions are certified, his name would still appear on the ballot. Assuming voters would not favor an indicted, resigned governor, Republicans would likely be forced to mount some type of write-in campaign to try to prevent the Democratic nominee from being elected.
However, because the statutes are unclear, the GAB's interpretation of the law would likely be litigated endlessly in court, with the losers crying foul, possibly until the next regularly scheduled governor's election in 2014.
Correction: Earlier, this post indicated that upon the governor's resignation, the Lieutenant Governor becomes "acting governor." In fact, since 1979, the lieutenant governor who succeeds the governor assumes the full title of "governor."