Organizers of the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday filed what they said were more than a million signatures, a number that nearly matches Walker's vote total from 2010 and almost doubles the number of signatures needed to trigger another election.
United Wisconsin, the organization formed to recall the governor, said it turned in about 1.9 million signatures to the Government Accountability Board, a tally that includes 845,000 signatures to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and more than 21,000 apiece for Republican Sens. Pam Galloway of Wausau, Van Wanggaard of Racine and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls. Earlier in the day, the group working to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, filed 20,600 signatures.
"The collection of more than 1 million signatures is a crystal-clear indication of how strong the appetite is to stop the damage and turmoil that Gov. Walker has caused Wisconsin," said Ryan Lawler, United Wisconsin co-chairman. "In the dead of Wisconsin winter, an army of more than 30,000 Wisconsin-born and -bred volunteers took to the streets, the malls, the places of worship and dinner tables to take our state back."
This would be the first statewide recall election in Wisconsin history, and only the third gubernatorial recall in U.S. history, if at least 540,208 signatures against Walker are found to be valid.
Walker was in New York City on Tuesday, attending a fundraiser hosted by Hank Greenberg, the former CEO of American International Group. Ciara Matthews, his campaign spokeswoman, said the governor was "completely booked for the day" and unavailable for comment.
But Walker did make time to speak to conservative talk show hosts Charlie Sykes, Rush Limbaugh and Greta Van Susteren. During the Limbaugh interview, Walker warned of recall "shenanigans" and said his campaign would go through the process to review and challenge suspect signatures. The governor predicted he would emerge from a recall race victorious, and said he thought the situation in Wisconsin would "send a powerful message" through statehouses across the country and in the halls of Congress.
But if Tuesday's signatures are any indication, Walker could face a stiff test in a recall election. In the 2010 election, he received 1.12 million votes.
The 1 million Walker recall signatures reportedly collected — which would equal about 46 percent of the total number of voters in the 2010 gubernatorial race — is likely to be more than enough for the recall to survive any legal challenges to signatures and could hint at an electorate eager to vote against him.
"There is no challenge — both legal or otherwise — that will prevent these elections from going forward," said Mike Tate, Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman. "Scott Walker is going to be recalled."
Tuesday's petition delivery took on a party atmosphere, with recall volunteers gathering around a U-Haul truck and lining up to carry boxes of petitions from counties around the state. A man on a bullhorn called out the name of each county, to applause and cheers, and a puppet made to look like Walker hovered nearby.
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The mood was a precursor to the "recall victory party" at Monona Terrace on Tuesday night.
Wisconsin's recall frenzy started last summer when six Republican senators and thee Democratic senators faced recall. The origin of the effort was the fight during February and March over Walker's agenda, which included a highly divisive bill to all but end collective bargaining for most public employees. Democrats picked off two GOP senators, narrowing the Republican majority in the state Senate to 17-16.
Organizers hope with this round of recalls to remove Walker and Kleefisch from office and take back control of the Senate. On Tuesday, a few of the targeted senators were preparing for the coming fight.
"If the petitions are found to be sufficient and a recall election moves forward, I will embrace the opportunity to run on my record and the accomplishments Senate Republicans have made over the past year," Fitzgerald said.
Wanggaard said he spent this past year trying to get people back to work, instead of focusing on politics.
"This recall election will be about choices," he said. "If the recallers are upset about paying a small portion of their health care and pension — less than private sector employees — they should say which teacher, which police officer and which firefighter they would lay off. If they are upset about spending cuts they should say which tax they would increase by $1 billion."
It's unclear when any of these recalls will make it on a ballot.
Kevin Kennedy, GAB director and general counsel, said the agency will go to court to ask for more time to review petition signatures and for all of the recall elections to be held on the same day.
Already a challenge, he said, has been finding enough temporary workers to review the petitions. The board plans to hire 50 people but has only been able to add and train 30 people so far. Those hired to review petitions may not have made political contributions to a partisan campaign in the last year. They also cannot have signed recall petitions — a factor that limited the candidate pool, Kennedy said.
"That screens a lot of people out in the Madison area," he said.