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LOCAL PETAK RECALL

**1995 FILE PHOTO** Richard Carpenter, of Racine, wears an 'Impeach Petak' hat as he attends an organizational meeting of the 'No More Petak' commission Monday at the UAW local 180 in Racine. The group was meeting to discuss their recall effort to recall state Sen. George Petak. /Photo by Jim Slosiarek

RACINE - Sixteen years ago, former state Sen. George Petak, R-Racine, voted on one issue that lost him his job.

He voted yes, to allow Racine County to become a part of the Brewers stadium sales tax district in 1995. Enough local residents were outraged that he was recalled.

Tuesday six Republican senators face recall elections, and next week two Democrats face recalls including Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, whose district includes Burlington.

Petak's advice for the incumbents facing recalls is simple.

"Take nothing for granted," said Petak, who was the first Wisconsin legislator to be successfully recalled from office. "Stand up for your principles and consider the effort to recall a legitimate threat."

When Petak, 61, who now lives in Tennessee, voted for the Brewers stadium tax in 1995, he didn't believe there was any other way to keep the team in Milwaukee.

He said he did everything he could to keep Racine County from having to pay the stadium taxes, which increased the county's sales tax from 5 percent to 5.1 percent - a tax residents still pay today. At the last minute Racine County was added into the final mix, said Petak, who cast the deciding vote.

If he had not voted yes, "I think the Brewers would be in Charlotte," Petak said, naming one of many cities he thought the Brewers likely would have moved to.

In the mid-1960s, when the Braves left Milwaukee, the city was without a team for several years.

"It created all kinds of problems in terms of identity of the city," Petak said.

He voted for what he believed.

"I have no regrets over that," Petak said.

After he cast the deciding vote, then-Rep. Kim Plache, D-Racine, ousted him from office during his recall election.

He later moved to Madison, where he worked as a lobbyist and moved last year to Tennessee, where he is pursuing career options helping orphans and children in foster care.

That single recall also switched control of the state Senate from a 17-16 Republican majority to a 17-16 Democratic majority.

Control of the state Senate could be determined again in Tuesday's recall elections.

Petak does not believe there are grounds to recall any state Democrats or Republicans.

"There ought to be some standard established ... such as malfeasance in office or scandal," Petak said. "That is not the case for any Democrat or Republican."

But the law does not require malfeasance.

He is not making any prediction about the outcomes of the recalls.

He added, "I know there is a lot of money going in both directions."

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