Efforts expected to recall Gov. Walker

A man leaves a rally in Wisconsin in support of recalling Gov. Walker, whose eventual law sparked weeks of protest.
A man leaves a rally in Wisconsin in support of recalling Gov. Walker, whose eventual law sparked weeks of protest. (STEVE KINDERMAN / Associated Press)

Wis. Democrats still need a clear candidate to replace him if they force an election.

Posted: November 14, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - The effort to recall Wisconsin's Republican governor is expected to begin Tuesday, although his opponents have yet to come up with a candidate to replace him.

The recall effort comes in response to a Wisconsin law passed this year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Gov. Scott Walker's proposal sparked weeks of protests that drew tens of thousands of people to the state Capitol, and two Republican state senators who supported it were ousted in recalls over the summer. Seven other lawmakers targeted for their support or opposition of the law survived recall elections.

Walker, who was elected last fall, isn't eligible for recall until he has been in office for one year. Democrats have been working closely with union leaders on the effort, and they plan to launch their petition drive Tuesday. They must gather more than 540,000 signatures by Jan. 17 to force a recall election.

The governor has already started raising money to fight the recall thanks to a donor who filed paperwork Nov. 4 for a fake recall effort. The maneuver allowed Walker to begin accepting unlimited donations.

Nicole Larson, spokeswoman for the state Republican Party, said Walker "remains completely focused on the task at hand - saving taxpayer dollars and creating a business-friendly climate so Wisconsinites can get back to work."

Meanwhile, potential candidates to replace Walker are jockeying for position behind the scenes and preparing for a primary if the party doesn't unite behind one person. The possibilities include former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - one of 14 state senators who fled to Illinois in an ultimately futile effort to block a vote on Walker's bill. Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive, also could be a contender.

Democratic strategists would love to persuade one of the two biggest names in Democratic politics - former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl - to run, but they believe they could win with a candidate who has some name recognition even if the person has never held statewide office.

"I think people really do, at some level, believe a rocking chair with nobody sitting in it would be a better governor than Scott Walker," Democratic Party strategist Sachin Chheda said.

Marty Beil, executive director of the 23,000-member Wisconsin State Employees Union, said he was not worried that Democrats had not yet coalesced around a candidate. "I believe that we get the signatures, then we get the candidate," Beil said.

But former state Democratic Party chairman Joe Wineke said that although he didn't feel a rush to choose a nominee, some party members are "very nervous about the lack of a defined candidate" as petitions are being circulated.

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