By DINESH RAMDE
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Recall elections targeting four Republican state senators and likely Gov. Scott Walker and his lieutenant governor are scheduled to begin on May 8 under a deal approved Wednesday by a Wisconsin judge.
The Government Accountability Board, which runs elections in Wisconsin, asked for approval to hold the recalls on the first Tuesday in May, or to use that date for primary elections if needed and then hold the general election on June 5. Since the days are a week later than election dates previously set by Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess, the judge needed to approve them.
The deal also grants the board 11 more days, until March 30, to review signatures on recall petitions against Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. It appears nearly certain that both Republicans will stand for recall since they haven’t challenged the more than 1.7 million signatures submitted, and it takes 540,208 signatures to trigger each of their recalls.
The recalls were motivated by anger over Walker’s proposal that was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. A round of recalls last summer targeting six Republicans and three Democrats resulted in two Republicans losing their seats, leaving the GOP with a 17-16 majority in the Wisconsin Senate.
The four GOP senators being targeted this time are Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and Van Wanggaard of Racine.
The board approved recall elections for the four earlier this week, after deciding enough valid signatures from Wisconsin voters had been turned in. But the board didn’t officially order that the elections be held, since it wanted all six elections to be held on the same day and needed to complete its review of recall petitions against Walker and Kleefisch.
State law mandates that once the board orders a recall, the general election or primary must be held about six weeks from the day the order was issued. The board’s official stamp on the elections dates is expected.
Walker campaign attorney Joe Olson said it was a good idea to hold all the elections on one day.
“I think the big win here for the taxpayers and the state of Wisconsin is that all the elections are going to occur at the same time so we’re not spending millions of extra dollars to do elections one after the other after the other,” he said.
Attorney Jeremy Levinson, who represents groups backing the recalls, said he was happy that the legal wrangling over deadlines had finally ended.
“We are now moving past the process and actually putting this to the voters, where it belongs,” he said.
The new election dates provide a little more breathing room for county clerks and voters since original dates were May 1, just four weeks after the state’s presidential primary, and May 29, the day after Memorial Day.
“I think it’s clearly in the public interest,” the judge said in approving the extension. “It would have been difficult to have elections around the Memorial Day weekend.”
If Walker faces recall, a Democratic primary is likely. Candidates who have announced or are considering running include former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.