Recall elections ordered for Walker, Kleefisch, 4 GOP senators

2012-03-31T04:30:00Z 2015-02-20T15:52:12Z Recall elections ordered for Walker, Kleefisch, 4 GOP senatorsMARY SPICUZZA | Wisconsin State Journal | mspicuzza@madison.com | 608-252-6122 | @MSpicuzzaWSJ madison.com

It's official.

Gov. Scott Walker will be Wisconsin's first governor to face a recall after the historic election was ordered Friday by state elections officials.

Walker could face a rematch of his 2010 election after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Friday he would run in the May 8 Democratic primary.

Barrett — who lost the 2010 race with 47 percent of the vote to Walker's 52 percent — said he would start campaigning across the state. He joins three other Democrats seeking to run against Walker: former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma.

The Government Accountability Board voted 5-0 Friday to order the recall of the first-term Republican governor following the collection of nearly 901,000 petition signatures — far more than the 540,208 required to trigger the election.

The GAB also ordered recalls against Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators.

The recall elections have been expected for weeks because of the high number of signatures gathered by recall organizers and Democrats between mid-November and mid-January.

The general recall elections will be June 5. Primaries are likely, especially because the Republican Party of Wisconsin announced Friday afternoon that it plans to run fake Democratic candidates in all of the races.

"The protest candidates will run as Democrats to guarantee that there is one clear date for the primary election and one clear date for the general election," said Stephan Thompson, RPW's executive director.

Barrett said in an email to supporters Friday that he would fight to restore collective bargaining rights "because it's the right thing to do, and it's necessary to heal Wisconsin."

Barrett said the state needs a governor who is focused on jobs, not ideology, and who is committed to bring the state together to heal political wounds.

Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks said voters have no interest in electing Barrett, who has twice lost in runs for governor. He was defeated in the 2002 Democratic primary by former Gov. Jim Doyle.

Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said they have been expecting the recall election to go forward, but believe Wisconsin voters will back the governor's record.

"Now it is time for voters to examine the choice they will be faced with in June," Matthews said.

Walker will be only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall, joining California Gov. Gray Davis, who was recalled in 2003, and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier, recalled in 1921.

The roots of the Walker recall began shortly after he took office in January 2011, when about one month after taking office he unveiled a measure to all but end collective bargaining rights for most public workers in Wisconsin. It also amounted to a cut in pay for those workers.

Walker's move made national news, and sparked massive demonstrations that drew tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol for days on end and led to an occupation of the building. Wisconsin's 14 Democratic senators left the state for Illinois to delay a vote on the measure, but it was pushed through anyway.

Walker argued the changes were needed to help balance the budgets of state and local governments. But Democrats and labor advocates said the true aim was to weaken unions and gain a political advantage, as unions tend to back Democrats over Republicans.

Wisconsin has historical significance to the labor movement as the first state to enact a comprehensive collective bargaining law and the birthplace of the national union representing non-federal public workers.

Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, called Friday "a very serious day," and said the decision to seek a recall of Walker was not made lightly.

"This simply cannot wait," he said. "Today's actions ensure that this judgment will now be in the hands of the people."

The GAB found 900,939 valid signatures were collected on petitions seeking to recall Walker, and about 808,990 were gathered on those seeking to recall Kleefisch. Board staff had said Thursday that they were striking five fake names, but on Friday said it was only four when they announced one — Fungky Van Den Elzen — was a real person.

Out of 931,053 signatures against Walker, the GAB struck only 30,114, or about three percent. Walker was elected with 1,128,941 votes.

The GAB had already found there were enough valid petition signatures to trigger recalls against four GOP state senators: Scott Fitzgerald, Van Wanggaard, Terry Moulton, and Pam Galloway.

They officially ordered those recalls on Friday, too.

The state Senate is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats after two GOP senators lost their seats in the first round of recalls last summer, and then Galloway resigned in recent weeks.

Republicans control the Assembly 59-39-1.

These elections, much like the first round of recalls, are expected to be expensive fights involving millions of dollars in out-of-state donations and a slew of nasty television advertisements. Walker has already been traveling around the country and has raised more than $12 million for his campaign coffers.

Until Friday, he was able to raise unlimited campaign contributions because of a loophole in state election laws that says an incumbent isn't subject to standard campaign finance limits if they are defending themselves against a recall — until the election is officially certified.

At the same time Walker has criticized what he says are out-of-state "union bosses" sending millions of dollars to the state to attack him. And his campaign has criticized Falk, the former Dane County executive, as the candidate "hand-picked" by unions.

Falk promptly praised the GAB's decision, criticized Walker for dividing the state, and said Wisconsin is ready for a change in leadership.

Candidates wishing to run in any of the six recall races have until April 10 at 5 p.m. to file their nomination papers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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