The organizer of an effort to remove Gov. Tony Evers from office claimed Monday her group had obtained enough signatures to move forward with a recall election. But statements she made on social media cast doubt on her public claims.
Misty Polewczynski, the organizer of a petition to recall Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, told the Wisconsin State Journal she had surpassed the threshold of 668,327 valid petition signatures required to trigger a statewide recall election as a 60-day window to collect and submit them comes to a close. Her statement came after she told the The Journal Times the group had collected more than 620,000 signatures as of last Thursday.
But in a Facebook group message that has since been removed, Polewczynski wrote in response to a question about why she had provided the number to the news media: “I would not pay attention to that number given to them!”
“Sometimes any press is better than no press. But like we’d give that out?!” she added.
She later wrote: “I’m going to do an interview this afternoon and will probably make up some crap to tell them. I like when they look dumb. Plus they’ve drug my name through the mud ... I dont care to do the interview but even if they just want me to look stupid, we could use the press.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which first reported on the Facebook posts, previously reported Polewczynski was convicted of forgery, writing a worthless check and bail jumping 15 years ago.
Asked about the Facebook comments by a reporter, Polewczynski denied misleading the media and said the Facebook comments were taken out of context. She suggested she was unlikely to do any more interviews.
Polewczynski wants to recall Evers and Barnes over their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the outbreak of violence in Kenosha after the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey.
“We set a goal of one million, we have exceeded the minimum required and are working towards the goal,” Polewczynski said in an email to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Reporters are unable to independently verify Polewczynski’s claim of the numbers of signatures reportedly collected. She declined to provide the exact number of signatures she’s collected so far because she says the number keeps growing.
“(We) are working diligently to ensure we have enough to cushion any challenges Evers may make,” she said. “We will be ready.”
The Journal Times has reached out to the Recall Evers Now effort and did not immediately receive a reply.
Polewczynski has until Oct. 27 to collect and successfully submit 668,327 valid petition signatures for each of the recall petitions for them to advance to a statewide ballot. The threshold for both recall petitions is 25% of the votes cast in the November 2018 gubernatorial election. Evers and Barnes, both Democrats, are up for re-election in November 2022 and their current four-year terms end in January 2023.
If enough valid signatures survive challenges and are certified, a statewide recall election would be held six weeks after the date on which the recall signatures were certified as sufficient. If more than one candidate seeks to appear on the ballot for each party, the original recall date becomes the primary, and the statewide general recall election would occur four weeks later.
The last time Wisconsin had a statewide recall election was in 2012, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett 53% to 46%, a slightly larger margin than his 2010 victory. The recall was spurred by Act 10, the law that Walker proposed to balance the state budget, but which also included many provisions to weaken the political power of public sector labor unions.
The prospect of an Evers recall has split Wisconsin Republicans, many of whom are concerned the recall effort is diverting attention away from the effort to re-elect President Donald Trump. They also say a recall would be ill-advised given Evers’ relative popularity in the state, and has allowed him to begin unlimited fundraising just before the crucial presidential election.
“Recalling Evers should not be attempted because it’s the wrong thing to do,” conservative commentator James Wigderson wrote in late August. “One of the reasons Republicans were so successful in fighting the recall elections after Act 10 is that the public correctly perceived that it was an attempt to undo the previous election. Republicans made the case that recalls should only be used in very limited circumstances to get rid of politicians who were corrupt and using the office for their benefit.”
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, has also expressed concerns about the recall effort. But other conservatives, such as WISN-AM talk show host Vicki McKenna, have promoted the effort.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has railed against the recall effort, saying that “trying to recall a governor with a 57% job approval rating in the midst of a global pandemic and civil unrest is irresponsible and absurd.”
Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator Daniel Carleton said while petitioners are gathering signatures, Evers is allowed unlimited fundraising only if it’s in connection with or response to circulating, offering to file or filing a recall petition. Fundraising amounts that exceed normal state-imposed limits must be returned if they aren’t used for those purposes.
After a recall election is ordered, state law only allows Evers unlimited fundraising in connection with legal fees and expenses related to contesting the order.
Mary Bendorf, of the village of South Wayne, collected signatures to recall Evers outside Blackhawk Technical College several hours before Trump was scheduled to speak in Janesville Saturday. Attendees took a shuttle bus from the college to the nearby airport, where the president spoke.
Bendorf said the petition signaled a referendum on Evers and his response to statewide issues this year including the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing issues at the state Department of Workforce Development to address backlogged unemployment claims, and civil unrest in communities like Kenosha.
“Wisconsin residents are not happy with the way that Evers has been handing the state,” she said. “Especially with the riots and destruction … that’s been huge for a lot of people.”(tncms-asset)01b320e1-ac71-533c-acdc-3653c7619213(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)e11b4148-6b21-11e6-a611-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Assessing the impact of Act 10 on Wisconsin, 5 years later
Five years ago today, Republican Gov. Scott Walker introduced legislation that would effectively end collective bargaining for public employees and unmoor Wisconsin from its progressive roots.
In his own words, it was the day he "dropped the bomb."
The bill that later became Act 10 launched the largest protests ever in Madison, including a temporary occupation of the Capitol; legislative chaos highlighted by Democratic senators fleeing to Illinois to forestall a floor vote; and Walker's historic recall victory.
The days, weeks and months after Walker's Feb. 11, 2011, announcement were among the most dramatic in Wisconsin's history.
Years later, Act 10 continues to influence the state's political, economic and social landscape. And it will continue to reverberate years into the future.
Today, the Wisconsin State Journal explores five impacts of Act 10 on the five-year anniversary of its introduction.
Wisconsin's political fault lines existed long before Act 10, but the law that hobbled public sector unions and launched Gov. Scott Walker as a national conservative star may be most remembered years from now for bringing those fissures into high relief.
Public school teachers were the face of the opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10 -- and they could end up absorbing some of the longest lasting changes resulting from the controversial law.
In the five years since Act 10 was signed by Gov. Scott Walker, union membership in Wisconsin has plummeted.
Wisconsin's cities, towns and counties have reaped savings in the five years since Act 10 became law. But a leading public-worker union official says it also is causing a slow erosion in the quality of the state's municipal workforce -- and the services they provide.
New Republican Gov. Scott Walker was barely a month into his first term when he unleashed a political firestorm in Wisconsin in February 2011.
A collection of Wisconsin State Journal front pages during the historic Capitol protests of February and March 2011. Gov. Scott Walker's plan …
Wisconsin State Journal photographers picked their favorite photos from the historic protests of February and March 2011.
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Wisconsin's economic growth has continued to lag its neighbors and the nation in the five years since the passage of Act 10. But property taxes have flat-lined and unemployment is at its lowest level in 15 years.
“I would not pay attention to that number given to them! Sometimes any press is better than no press. But like we’d give that out?! ... I’m going to do an interview this afternoon and will probably make up some crap to tell them. I like when they look dumb. Plus they’ve drug my name through the mud ... I dont care to do the interview but even if they just want me to look stupid, we could use the press.” Misty Polewcynski, in a Facebook group message regarding the number of signatures collected
Lee Newspapers Reporter Mitchell Schmidt contributed to this report.
“I would not pay attention to that number given to them! Sometimes any press is better than no press. But like we’d give that out?! ... I’m going to do an interview this afternoon and will probably make up some crap to tell them. I like when they look dumb. Plus they've drug my name through the mud ... I dont care to do the interview but even if they just want me to look stupid, we could use the press."
Misty Polewcynski, in a Facebook group message regarding the number of signatures collected
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