One week after the signature-gathering period for petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin commenced, signs are strong that the conservative Republican chief executive will face Badger State voters over whether or not he completes the remaining two years of his term. In all likelihood, this latest and most important recall election will be held by next June.
Encouraged by recent unfavorable developments surrounding Walker and emboldened by the resounding rejection by Ohio voters of GOP Gov. John Kasich’s reforms dealing with state employees’ benefits, the labor-lubricated recall movement in Wisconsin gathered more than 105,000 of the 540,208 signatures it needs to submit by January 17, 2012. The Government Accountability Board (Wisconsin’s election oversight panel) then has 31 days in which to examine and certify the signatures, thus setting the stage for a recall election. However, a court could extend that February 17 certification deadline 31 more days. Should there be a primary required to choose gubernatorial nominees in a recall election, that would be held March 27–or pushed to April 24, depending on whether the certification deadline is extended.
“So you’re looking at a recall election in May or June, depending, of course, on whether the forces fighting Gov. Walker get the required signatures and they are certified,” Wisconsin’s veteran GOP consultant Scott Becher told HUMAN EVENTS. “And in that case, you’ll see national and international press descend on Wisconsin in even greater numbers than they did during the senate recalls in August.”
Becher was referring to the attempts by organized labor and liberal Democrats to recall Republican state senators who voted for Walker’s reforms requiring state employees to pay a greater portion for their retirement benefits. A few of the recall elections succeeded, but Republicans nevertheless survived enough such contests to cling to senate control by one seat (17 to 16).
After the last senate recall election, polls showed Wisconsin voters generally fed up with the whole process and reluctant to subject Walker to such a vote.
But last week, a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll showed voters statewide almost equally divided on a prospective recall of their governor (49% against, 47% for). A recent St. Norbert College poll showed a staggering 58% of voters statewide want Walker recalled–and among Republicans, the number wanting their governor recalled was 24%, up from 7% in the spring. (92% of Wisconsin Democrats want Walker recalled.)
As to why this dramatic change in voter attitude, part of it is due to Walker’s much-publicized campaign vow to create 250,000 new jobs by 2014. But recent studies (including one from his own Department of Revenue) project that only 136,000 jobs will be created by the beginning of ’14. In addition, when Walker began the crusade for state employees to pay a greater portion for their pensions, he promised to pay for a greater portion of his own pension. This the governor did–but rather than doing so immediately, to set an example, he did so when the new pension law was enacted, like everyone else.
“And you have to remember that the unions have been lying low for months, just waiting for the right time to strike at the governor,” says Becher. The opportune time is now, and, with a recall election likely for next summer, Wisconsin will be the site of one of the defining political stories of 2012 outside the race for the White House.