By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The battle for Wisconsin’s “political soul” has begun.
The campaign to recall Gov. Scott Walker, billed by partisans on both sides as a contest for the Badger State's political soul, was slated to begin just after the stroke of midnight Tuesday, just as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and organizers for the liberal political action committee United Wisconsin had promised for weeks.
Recall leaders Monday said they planned to take their campaign papers early Tuesday to the state’s Government Accountability Board, or GAB, office here, and some in the recall drive have scheduled a march at the governor’s Wauwatosa residence.
Republicans, meanwhile, have no intention of standing idly by in the face of an assault on their majority and their agenda, which, they say, is delivering positive results. A Recall the Recall event is slated Tuesday evening here to rally against the campaign.
Social networks were abuzz with recall news Monday — for and against. The petition drive to recall Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and perhaps several Republican senators was set to begin early Tuesday, in a party-like atmosphere — in every sense of the word.
A Madison Recall Countdown Event was planned at a Madison watering hole, beginning at 9 p.m. Monday.
“At 12:01 a.m., we’ll have petitions to hand out — you can start circulating right away!” the notice read on United Wisconsin’s website.
Thus starts a 60-day window for the recall campaign to collect at least 540,206 signatures on a petition to recall Walker. The same minimum number of valid signatures will be needed to recall the lieutenant governor, but organizers have said they will need tens of thousands of more signatures to ensure the petitions' validity.
While much of the recall's attention has centered on Act 10, the Walker-led measure that limited collective bargaining for most public employees, Democrats say there is much more to the drive to oust the governor.
“The collective-bargaining piece in Act 10 may have been (the) opening cannon shot, but it’s not one thing,” said Jeff Johnson, chairman of the Marathon County Democratic Party.
He pointed to legislation that Democrats say loosens environmental laws and Walker’s “consolidation of power in the conversion of the civil service into political appointments,” among others.
Johnson said he his office would be open at 12:01 a.m. to begin the paperwork of recall, but he probably wouldn’t be joining in.
“Two months is a long time. I’m going to need all the sleep I can get,” he said.
Central Wisconsin promises to be a critical staging point in a political battle expected to extend beyond Walker.
Democrats said they will target state Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, among other key Republican senators for recall. Johnson said the Marathon County Democrats' marching orders from the state party office is to make Walker petition signatures Priority 1, Galloway No. 2, and Kleefisch No. 3.
Galloway’s office said the senator would have no comment on the matter Monday.
Her supporters did.
“We’re in Galloway Country here,” said Evan Nehring, public relations committee chairman for the Republican Party of Marathon County. “It’s amazing to witness every one of these (Republican) senators standing on (the) principle of what they believe is best for the state. They put their livelihoods on the line, and there has not been a sign of waffling or buckling.”
Also targeted by Democrats and pro-union groups like United Wisconsin and We Are Wisconsin are state Sens. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau; Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls; and Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.
It’s a matter of math. Democrats picked up two Senate seats during this past summer’s Senate recall elections, narrowing the Republican’s majority to 17-16. Any pickup in the Senate would give Dems the lead, and the ability to reverse GOP policy gains.
Going after senators also could signal an understanding of the political realities of incumbency.
“It’s hard to recall a governor,” David Siemers, chairman and professor of political science at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, told Wisconsin Reporter earlier this month. He said the recall campaign should have no problem getting the requisite signatures but asked, “What happens when they don’t win?”
Wanggaard told Wisconsin Reporter that he wouldn’t be truthful if he didn’t admit to feeling some concern about the reported recall campaign against him. He said he will stand on his record and with that, he said he’s pretty confident he’ll be in his post at least another three years.
As for his fellow Republicans, Wanggaard said the GOP enjoys a critical asset: unity of focus.
“Our No. 1 defense is the message and the results that are coming out of the policies we put in place particularly (Act 10),” he said, pointing to Republican budget reforms on pace to turn a $3.6 billion budget shortfall into a surplus, and changes to collective bargaining that freed up money for school districts and local governments.
Opponents contend limiting collective bargaining hasn’t provided the kind of relief the Walker administration promised or now claims.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin sounded ready for the long fight ahead, pointing to last November’s success when the GOP posted sweeping victories.
“The Republican grassroots in Wisconsin proved to be among the best in the nation during the 2010 elections and will continue to stand with Gov. Walker and his common sense reforms,” party spokeswoman Nicole Larson said in a statement.
Larson said Republicans have established the Recall Integrity Center, a website that will provide “Wisconsin voters with a sense of security in the signature collection process, as well as a voice for any misconduct or questionable practices by the (Democratic) groups overseeing the process.”
Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, blasted the Republicans’ Recall Integrity Center, asserting it is tantamount to “leaving the foxes to guard the hen house.”
“This website represents (an) effort to intimidate petition circulators and signers and frighten them away from exercising their constitutional right to exercise the recall tool,” Tate said in a statement.
And so the recall campaign of Walker and others begins, just in time for the holidays. Perhaps “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” — at least in Wisconsin — may have to wait until the smoke clears on this bitter political war.