On MSNBC’s The Ed Show last night, the executive director of the Democratic party of Wisconsin, Mike Tate, announced the beginning of an effort to recall Republican governor Scott Walker. Tate said that the party would file the official paperwork to recall Walker on November 15, which will allow union activists to begin collecting the 540,000 signatures needed. The unions have 60 days to collect all the signatures, and have boasted that they already have 203,000 names of potential signers in an electronic database.
Unions have recently had a great deal of success collecting signatures to protest changes in collective bargaining for public employees. Six Republican state senators recently faced recall elections in Wisconsin, with two losing their seats. In Ohio, union organizers only needed 231,000 signatures to force a statewide vote to overturn Governor Kasich’s collective bargaining law. They ended up with 915,000.
Once the signatures are collected, Democrats can decide when to hold the election. They could save the state millions of dollars by holding the election on April 3, which is the day of the Wisconsin Republican presidential primary — but for obvious reasons, they will pick a different day.
The timing of the announcement was odd, and some would say a bit telling. Tate made his announcement on national cable television as the Milwaukee Brewers were choking away game two of the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. (Bitterness intentional.) While the entire state was watching the Brewers try to make their first World Series in 29 years, Tate was making the biggest political announcement of the year — which signals that the recall effort isn’t a state effort, but one handed down from the national Democratic political machine. Anyone with any sense or knowledge of Wisconsin would have waited an extra day to break the big news.
Since the law authorizing recalls in Wisconsin was passed in 1926, only two state elected officials had ever been recalled from office prior to this year. No statewide recall effort has ever been successful; the most serious effort occurred in 1997, when a pro-life group tried to collect enough signatures to recall U.S. senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl for their positions on partial-birth abortion. At the time, the signature threshold was much less, and the group fell about 50,000 signatures short.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.