CHICAGO — Organizers of the move to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker filed more than one million signatures by the Tuesday deadline in their effort to force a special election for the first-term Republican governor.
Under state law, the organizers needed to gather at least 540,208 signatures — equal to 25% of all votes cast in the 2010 governor’s race — to force a recall. The state Government Accountability Board will review the petitions and if a sufficient number are validated it would set a recall election date for Walker. Organizers also filed petitions to trigger recall elections for Lieut. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators.
The organizers, led by organized labor and Democrats, launched the petition drive last November. Walker drew the ire of unions and Democrats last year by forcing through legislation that curtailed most local and state union collective bargaining rights. Senate Democrats left the state in an effort to stall a vote, but it eventually was approved by Republican members who control the Legislature.
If successful, the effort would mark the first recall of a Wisconsin governor. Only two other governors nationally have been successfully forced from office: the 2003 recall of California Gov. Gray Davis and the 1921 recall of North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier.
No Democrat has formally declared a run should the petition drive succeed, but several are eyeing a bid, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in the 2010 governor’s race. Election officials estimate that a recall election would cost $9 million.
Walker has said in recent comments that his supporters would challenge questionable signatures but that he expects a late spring or summer election and he is ready to face it. He blamed the recall effort on public unions angry over his efforts to rein in government spending.
Credit rating agencies said Walker’s move to sharply reduce the state’s reliance on one-shots in the $66 billion two year budget approved last year helped improve the state’s fiscal condition. Walker’s budget relied mostly on cuts to eliminate a $3 billion deficit.
The shift towards a more solid financial footing came at the expense of local governments, school districts and public employees, who face higher pension contributions and health care premiums. Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s rate the state’s $6.2 billion of GOs AA and Moody’s Investors Service rates them Aa2.