By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Wisconsin moved into the historic, in another unprecedented week in state politics — a tough week for Gov. Scott Walker.
To perhaps no one’s surprise, Wisconsin’s embattled governor and lieutenant governor will face a recall election.
Meanwhile, a federal court struck down two key provisions in the Walker-led, collective-bargaining changing Act 10, as Republican presidential candidates made the Badger State their latest home.
Wisconsin joined the ranks of California and Idaho on Friday, becoming the third state to recall a sitting governor.
The Government Accountability Board, or GAB, which oversees state elections and campaigns, found the campaign to recall Republican Scott Walker had more than enough signatures on recall petitions.
Primaries are set for May 8, with general elections scheduled for June 5.
The Walker recall campaign, according to GAB’s ruling of sufficiency, collected 900,939 valid signatures, 360,731 more than the 540,208 required under Wisconsin’s recall laws.
Organizers of an effort to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, turned in 808,990 valid signatures, 268,782 more than the law requires, according to GAB.
Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, while seemingly celebratory, called the day of recall “no great cause for celebration.”
“This is not something that we ever wanted. Frankly, it’s not something that we sought,” Tate told media following the GAB meeting. “This is the recourse available to people of Wisconsin when their elected officials behave in such an egregious fashion that they simply cannot wait for the next election to render a verdict.”
Republican leadership found Tate’s statement about the Democrats never wanting a recall, at the least disingenuous. They noted a Democratic Party campaign, backed by organized labor, that has officially driven the recall of Walker, Kleefisch and four GOP state senators since mid-November. Some Republicans believe Democrats have had Walker’s number since shortly after he beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the 2010 election.
Barrett, by the way, on Friday said he would run against Walker, joining a field of three other Democrats.
“There was little doubt that union activists would be able to rally their liberal base to force this expensive and baseless recall election,” said Ben Sparks, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in a statement following the GAB’s certification of the recall elections.
Battleground Badger State
Beyond recalls, Wisconsin is ground zero in the GOP presidential nomination chase.
Santorum was slated to make at least seven campaign stops in Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday.
On Thursday, Paul spoke to a crowd of 4,500 people — mostly young voters — on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Well behind in the polls but entrenched in the hearts of several young Libertarians, Paul continued to push his message of limited government.
“I think your generation is awakening a lot of people — not only in your generation but a lot of other people who have been holding back and looking for a little encouragement,” Paul said.
An NBC News/Marist poll, released Friday, was the latest to indicate Romney’s growing lead over his challengers in Wisconsin. Romney had the backing of 40 percent of likely primary voters, 7 percentage points ahead of Santorum, at 33 percent.
Paul was a distant third, at 11 percent, followed by Gingrich, with 8 percent, according to the poll of 740 likely Republican voters, conducted March 26-27. The poll had an error rate of plus or minus 3.6 percent.
Romney bolstered his Wisconsin campaign fortunes Friday, when U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin’s 1st District congressman who is rapidly becoming a Republican icon, threw his support behind the former Massachusetts governor.
ACT 10 verdict
A federal judge on Friday ruled two provisions of Wisconsin’s Act 10, which curbs collective bargaining for most unionized public employees, unconstitutional.
Judge William Conley of the U.S. District Court of Wisconsin’s Western District, said the state cannot require the unions to hold re-certification votes based on absolute majorities, and it cannot prohibit the voluntary deductions of union dues from employee paychecks.
Several unions sued the state, seeking summary judgment against a law that the plaintiffs claimed violated the Equal Protection Clause and their First Amendment rights.
The court ordered the state facilitate such deductions by May 31.
In his ruling, Conley wrote that he understands the impact of an injunction requiring a return of automatic dues will “fall on already burdened local, county and state governmental entities.”
On the other hand:
“These unions and their members have been without the benefits of these deductions (for) nine months and are, in this court’s view at least, entitled to the same subsidy extended by the State of Wisconsin to other public employee unions and their members,” Conley wrote, noting that police and firefighters are not bound by the same requirements and prohibitions.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said Conley affirmed the constitutionality of nearly every portion of Act 10, and the administration will appeal the court’s decision on the two provisions struck down.
“We are confident that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will continue to uphold the constitutionality of the law,” Werwie said.
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Voter ID on its way to the Supreme Court
Wisconsin’s highly contested law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot soon could be heading to the state Supreme Court.
Noting the “highly time-sensitive” nature of the appeals, two of seven state courts of appeals certified appeals of lower court rulings vacating the law, sending the appeals to the Supreme Court.
The lawsuits against voter ID, which claim the law disenfranchises a class of voter, were filed by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the NAACP’s Milwaukee branch in partnership with Voces de la Frontera, an immigrants rights group.
Dane County courts in early March issued injunctions against the law, in one case vacating voter ID.
State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed those decisions with the appeals court.
“It is my hope that this matter is concluded expeditiously,” Van Hollen said in a statement.
“Continued uncertainty surrounding the conduct of elections represents the potential for irreparable harm to electors and the franchise.”