A Democratic senator facing a recall election likely has one less challenger after Wisconsin election officials decided Monday not to allow a Republican on the ballot because he didn't collect enough valid signatures from voters.
GOP Rep. John Nygren of Marinette wanted to run against Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, but the Government Accountability Board ruled that only 398 of the signatures he submitted were valid — just two short of the required 400. Hansen is among nine state lawmakers facing recall elections in the wake of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Nygren said he was disheartened because he felt he had enough signatures. He said he was looking into his options, which could involve a court challenge.
"I feel obligated to my supporters to fight this decision," he said.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin had challenged 39 of the 424 signatures he submitted, and most of the dismissed were found not to be from the correct legislative district. Candidates could have filed up to 800 signatures.
Recall efforts are targeting six Republican senators who supported Walker's plan and three Democrats who fled the state to stall it.
The accountability board, which oversees elections, met Monday in Madison to review challenges to four Republican opponents in recall races against Hansen and Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover.
The board allowed recall organizer David VanderLeest of Green Bay on the ballot for the Hansen race, as well as local tea party leader Kim Simac of Eagle River and Robert Lincoln County Board Chairman Lussow of Tomahawk for the Holperin race. No challenges were submitted against Fred Ekornaas and Jonathan Steitz, who both are challenging Democratic Sen. Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie.
Hansen said he's confident he'll keep his Wisconsin Senate seat.
"It's pretty clear cut in our mind," he said. "We hope to move the state forward and we feel like we've done enough for the last 11 years to get re-elected."
The general election in the Hansen race will be held July 19. The primary election in the Holperin and Wirch races will be July 19, with a general election Aug. 16.
Challengers have already been approved for the six GOP senators facing recall elections. Each senator faces two challengers, who will face off in a Democratic primary July 12. The winners will face the Republican senators in an Aug. 9 general election.
The Republicans facing recall elections are Sens. Alberta Darling of River Hills, Rob Cowles of Green Bay, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Luther Olsen of Ripon.
All nine lawmakers targeted by the recall elections have filed lawsuits, asking to have the elections nullified. They argue that various petition problems were sufficient enough that the Government Accountability Board should not have set the recall dates.
Until it hears differently from a judge, the board is moving forward with all of the elections, board spokesman Reid Magney said.