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Recall 2.0

“The qualified electors of the state, of any congressional, judicial or legislative district or of any county may petition for the recall of any incumbent elective officer after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected.”


What does this mean for voters in Wisconsin? Wisconsin is in a state of perpetual campaigning.


The excerpt sited above, Article 13, Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution, limited the recall efforts this past summer to the 16 state senators who had been in office for more than one year. In the end, nine members of the Senate faced an actual recall election resulting in two successful recalls. 


This time around the stakes are higher as the 17 remaining Senators, every member of the Assembly elected on Nov. 2, 2010, as well as Gov. Scott Walker are now eligible to be recalled. 


Pick Your Poison

As with the previous recall efforts, once a recall petition is filed with the Government Accountability Board, the petitioning organization has 60 days to gather the appropriate signatures to trigger an election. The target number for those trying to recall Gov. Walker is 540,208 signatures.


Opponents of the governor were publicly weighing two different options regarding the strategic timing of a recall election. Would it be prudent to “strike while the iron is hot” and trigger the recall process as soon as legally possible? Or would there be a benefit to waiting until next November in hopes of riding the coattails of the high turnout presidential election?


After much deliberation, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and United Wisconsin announced they have joined forces and began their official recall effort of Gov. Walker yesterday, Nov. 15, 2011.  More than 100 petition signing events were organized across the state varying from midnight pajama parties to creating petition drive-thru stations in major cities. If enough valid signatures are gathered, a recall would likely take place next April or May pending any potential court challenges.


In anticipation of the recall effort, Gov. Walker’s Chief-of Staff, Keith Gilkes, left state employment last month in order to quarterback his campaign team. Gov. Walker utilized ESPN to kick-off his recall defense during the Packers/Vikings game this week on Monday Night Football.


Show Me The Money

If there is a silver lining to being recalled as an elected official, it’s the ability to raise unlimited amounts of money in a very short period of time. Recent analysis of the Senate recalls shows 368 individual contributors exceeded what would have been the normal contribution limit for a Senate campaign.


In a typical election cycle, the maximum donation a candidate for governor can receive from an individual is $10,000. Once the 60-day trigger begins on gathering signatures for the opposition, a fundraising clock starts for the incumbentwhere they can raise unlimited funds until the recall election is certified by the state. This is done with the caveat that all the excess money raised inthis time frame is spent within the same period.  This allows the incumbent to defend their record to the public during the petition process.


While the democrats didn’t begin their official recall process until yesterday, a Walker supporter threw everyone a curveball by launching a fake recall effort on November 4th.  This is significant because it opens the unlimited fundraising window for the governor 11 days earlier than initially planned by his opponents.


Recently revised numbers show that nearly $44 million was spent in total on the nine Senate recall campaigns. One can only imagine how much would be spent by both sides on a statewide recall effort against Gov. Walker.


And In This Corner?

Now that we know when the recall will take place, the big question is who will likely challenge Gov. Walker if enough valid signatures are collected?


Does Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett decide he wants a rematch?  Former U.S. Senator RussFeingold has ruled out running for the seat being vacated by U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, but could the opportunity to be governor tempt him to return to politics?  Does Senator Kohl want to run for governor? Without having to give up his congressional seat, will Cong. Ron Kind (La Crosse) take a shot at statewide office? State Senator Jon Erpenbach (Middleton) was often the public face of the Senate Democrats who went to Illinois during the collective bargaining debates. Can he translate his increased national profile into stateside political success?  Will former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk take a third run for statewide office? And former U.S. Cong. Dave Obey(Wausau) hasn’t completely shut the door on the idea of running himself. Will a political novice emerge?


Each one of these potential candidates has their own strengths and political baggage, but a free run at the Capitol’s East Wing with millions of dollars pouring in from all over the country has to be pretty alluring. With the recall process alreadyunderway, decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later.


And the Fun Doesn’t Stop There

It’s Groundhog’s Day in the state Senate as well where recall paperwork has also filed against four senators.  Three freshman senators, Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau); Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls); Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) as well as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) all face the possibility of recall provided roughly 15,000 valid signatures cangathered in 60 days.


If you enjoy political campaigns, Wisconsin is open for business.