MADISON — After more than two months of petition gathering, Democrats turned in over one million signatures to recall Gov. Scott Walker, and more than 24,000 to recall state Sen. Van Wanggaard, recall organizers announced Tuesday.
“This represents the most participated-in major recall effort in American history,” said Ryan Lawler, vice chairman of United Wisconsin.
“The over one million Wisconsinites represents a threshold so overwhelming it is beyond legal challenge,” he said.
Across the state, organizers also collected over 845,000 signatures to recall the lieutenant governor.
The Government Accountability Board will be reviewing the signatures as will Republicans, but Democrats said they have enough signatures to have confidence that recall elections will be held.
Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said Tuesday afternoon he did not yet have exact numbers of signatures collected to recall Walker and other Republicans because people were still bringing in petitions that day.
Opponents of Walker and Wanggaard still must transform public outrage over the push-back against unions into actual votes to oust them from office.
The 1 million signatures that United Wisconsin, the coalition that spearheaded the effort along with the Democratic Party, said were collected far exceeded the more than 540,000 needed for Walker. The effort stemmed from anger over Walker’s efforts during his first year in office that included effectively ending collective bargaining rights for nearly all public workers.
Petitioners on Tuesday also were submitting about 300,000 more signatures than were needed to trigger a recall election against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Between 23 percent and 56 percent above the number of signatures needed were also collected to force recall elections of four Republican state senators, including Wanggaard, with 15,353 valid signatures needed, and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
The massive number of signatures against Walker — 85 percent above the level needed — could make it nearly impossible for opponents to successfully challenge enough of them to stop an election.
“I don’t know if it’s insurmountable, but it would be extremely difficult,” said Joshua Spivak, a recall expert and senior fellow at Wagner College in New York.
Tate said given the number of signatures collected, Walker shouldn’t seek delays and instead let the election proceed.
“Does anyone really honestly believe we’re not going to have an election?’’ Tate said.
Walker expressed confidence Tuesday that he will survive a recall and that voters will reward him for balancing a $3.6 billion budget shortfall without laying off state employees or raising taxes.
“I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget, and hold the line on taxes,” he said in a statement.
“Instead of going back to the days of billion-dollar budget deficits, double-digit tax increases and record job loss, I expect Wisconsin voters will stand with me and keep moving Wisconsin forward.”
A Wanggaard recall
Should a Wanggaard recall be held, former Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, has said he is seriously considering running.
In the November 2010 Senate election, Wanggaard won his seat with approximately 32,000 votes over Lehman’s approximately 29,000 votes.
Even though the number of signatures collected did not top the number of votes Wanggaard received in 2010, Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the number of people who signed recall petitions is “an overwhelming total. It shows people have rejected him.”
Plus, he said, the number of people who will publicly sign recall petitions is only a fraction of the number of people who would vote Wanggaard out of office. He also pointed out that the amount of signatures collected to recall Wanggaard was more than what was collected for the other three Republican senators who also face a recall.
Organizers collected 21,000 signatures to recall Sen. Terry Moulton, 21,000 for Sen. Pam Galloway and 20,600 to recall Fitzgerald, according to figures from the state Democratic Party.
Wanggaard said Tuesday he thinks any opponent who runs against him in a recall election will lose.
The governor’s supporters have been training volunteers on how to vet signatures and they plan to create a database where names will be entered and verified. Walker has already successfully sued the state elections board to require it to do a more extensive review of the signatures than originally planned.
The Government Accountability Board has said its review will take 60 days or more in an undisclosed location and it will go to court this week to seek a delay beyond the 31 day review required under the law.
Tate said he didn’t expect a Walker recall election would happen before May. Walker has been saying he thinks it will be in June.
Walker has recently attended fundraisers in Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee. He is able to take advantage of a quirk in state law allowing those targeted for recall to ignore normal contribution limits until an election date is set. As of mid-December, he had already raised $5.1 million, with about half of that coming from out-of-state donors.
Democrats, who have no candidate raising money to challenge Walker, say they will not be able to match him dollar for dollar. Two prominent Democrats, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, have repeatedly said they aren’t interested. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker by 6 percentage points, issued a statement praising recall circulators but did not indicate whether he would enter the race.