By M.D Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The challenges begin.
Four Republican state senators targeted for recall filed challenges late Thursday, contesting signatures collected on petitions in the campaign.
Just how many challenges were filed was unclear late Thursday — the candidates weren’t talking and the Government Accountability, or GAB, was busy filing the challenge documents.
State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in an earlier news release, said he would contest 4,300 signatures as invalid, more than meeting the threshold to halt a recall election.
The Committee to Recall Scott Fitzgerald needed to collect 16,742 signatures from the 13th Senate District electorate to force a recall. Last month, committee founder Lori Compas said the campaign had collected 20,600 signatures.
On Wednesday, Compas told Wisconsin Reporter she was confident in the count.
“Anyone can go online and see the petitions, see our effort was honest and legitimate,” she said.
An analysis of petitions by Verify the Recall, a tea-party backed effort to verify petitions, found there are more than enough invalid signatures in the Fitzgerald recall effort to put the initiative in doubt, according to organizers.
Houston-based TruetheVote, a conservative group concerned with elections integrity, said Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, also a target of recall, may have a case to challenge the election.
Moulton did not return several phone calls to his office and his home Thursday.
Dan Romportl, executive director of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, said to be speaking for the four incumbents, also did not return a half-dozen calls and emails from Wisconsin Reporter.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin directed all calls to Romportl.
Romportl did tell the Racine Journal Times that Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, is challenging 7,491 signatures based on the current 21st Senate district boundaries.
That wouldn’t be enough to push back a recall campaign that collected 24,000 signatures, according to the Committee to Recall Wanggaard. The committee needed 15,353 to trigger a recall election.
But Wanggaard is challenging 20,426 signatures in what would be the new boundaries of the senate district, Romportl told the Journal Times.
Republicans have charged the recall campaigns and elections should be based on new legislative district maps, drawn by the majority GOP. The maps, challenged in court, were set to roll out for this November’s general election. Because of that, the GAB had directed senator recall campaigns to collect signatures using existing boundaries.
Wanggaard did not return several phone calls to his office and his home.
Randolph Brandt, treasurer of the Committee to Recall Wanggaard, said he’s confident that the campaign will have enough signatures to recall.
“Had (Wanggaard) thought there were enough errors to reverse the recall they would have done so,” he said.
State Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, also the subject of a recall campaign, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The Government Accountability, which oversees state elections and campaigns, said it would file copies of the challenges on its website as soon as possible. Copies of correcting affidavits filed by the recall committees with the petitions also were filed, according to the GAB.
Recall petitioners will have five days to rebut the challenges, and then officeholders will have two days to respond.
GAB staff will use the information to make recommendations to the board on whether there are significant numbers of signature to trigger elections.
Gov. Scott Walker has until Feb. 27 to submit his challenges, and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has until March 5, due to the staggering nature of the GAB’s release of petitions.
The recall campaign against the governor has said it has collected more than 1 million signatures.
The board has until March 19 to make its determinations.