Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker may have to start campaigning early, if a petition drive to recall the embattled lawmaker proves fruitful on Tuesday.
Organizers of the petition, United Wisconsin, claim they will provide the Government Accountability Board (GAB) with more than the 540,208 signatures necessary for a recall to take place, with organizers claiming to have garnered more than 720,000 signatures. One-quarter the number of voters that participated in the previous election must sign the recall petition for it to be valid.
I look at it optimistically and say that means there's still a majority of voters in the state who opted not to sign a recall petition and hopefully a majority of whom want us to still keep moving the state forward, Walker told The New York Times.
Walker drew the ire of a broad swath of the electorate last year when he, along with a Republican-controlled state legislature, began introducing reforms that limited public sector unions' bargaining rights in spite of concessions made at the negotiating table. The governor argued the limited rights and concessions were needed to close a $3.6 billion state budget gap.
His push led to protests within the state's capitol and around Wisconsin. The petition drive began in earnest in November 2011, with 60 days to gather the required number of signatures.
I think there's a real sense that the government unions don't want anybody - Republican or Democrat - doing this, Walker said. And they're going to try to make an example of me.
The initial strife has spread to other parts of the governor's agenda, as his environmental policies and promises of an employment revival have proved to be nagging issues.
Second Election in Late Spring/Early Summer if Petition Passes
Should the petitions pass the GAB's standards, the governor will face a second election in the late spring or early summer. The certification of the signatures is only half the process, as a potential Democratic opponent has yet to emerge. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Secretary of State Doug La Follette, Rep. Dave Obey, and State Sen. Jon Erpenbach have all been rumored as potential candidates.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party plans on holding as many as 20 recall celebrations throughout the state on Tuesday.
A successful recall would make Walker the third governor in the nation's history to fight for his office mid-tenure, and if past results are any indication, his prospects look grim. California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003 and eventually ousted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier faced a similar fate in 1921 (though he went on the serve in the U.S. Senate).
State Sen. Alberta Darling predicted a likely recall election, but that Walker would buck the trend and win the ensuing vote.
I think they're going to get the signatures but I think Walker's going to win, she told Politico. What the governor did is working. ... We balanced our budget without raising taxes and we're putting people back to work -- now, what is wrong with that?
The push against public sector unions made Walker a conservative darling across the nation, a fact he used in a recent cross-country fundraising excursion that netted him $5.1 million in campaign cash.
Aside from Walker, as many as 17 Wisconsin state senators could face recall elections this year and throw into flux the slim 17-16 majority the GOP holds in the State Senate. That effort includes Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who filed a complaint with the GAB that petitioners did not meet their deadline.
The Wisconsin GOP plans on responding with a pro-Walker rally on Jan. 21.