Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, will face a recall election this spring, only the third in U.S. history.
The state Government Accountability Board unanimously voted Friday to order the election after opponents of Walker collected more than 900,000 signatures demanding a recall. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, also a Republican, will have to stand in a new election as well, along with four GOP state senators.
Walker was elected in 2010 after promising to pursue an agenda of cost-cutting and fiscal conservatism. But his aggressive push for a controversial bill that sharply curtailed the collective bargaining rights of unions representing government workers made him a target.
Debate over the legislation sparked massive protests in Wisconsin's capital, Madison, and led Democratic lawmakers to flee the state in an attempt to forestall a vote. In a sign of the issue's intensity, Walker foes, including many union members, collected nearly twice as many signatures than the roughly 540,000 needed to force a recall.
The governor was upbeat after receiving the news, telling reporters that voters would vindicate his agenda.
It gives us a great opportunity to tell our story, to tell that we're turning things around, how we're heading in the right direction, how we're moving Wisconsin forward, Walker said after a news conference in Milwaukee, according to the Associated Press. But we've got a lot more to do.
Primaries for both parties -- Democrats have yet to select a challenger to face Walker -- will be conducted May 8, with the election for governor just four weeks later, on June 5, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
An effort to recall Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate last August fell short. Voters unseated two senators but Republicans retained a narrow one-member majority.
Only two other governors have faced recall elections -- North Dakota's Lynn Frazier in 1921 and California's Gray Davis in 2003. Both were defeated.