MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The clock is ticking for opponents of Republican Gov. Scott Walker hoping to force a recall election next year spurred by anger over his proposal effectively ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
The petition drive to collect more than 540,000 signatures began in the early morning hours Tuesday, with more than 100 events planned across the state to gather them all. Opponents of the Republican governor must collect 9,000 signatures a day to meet the target.
Walker recall organizers hope to tap ongoing anger over the collective bargaining law and build on momentum from last week's vote rejecting a similar law in Ohio. Wisconsin doesn't allow for a referendum challenging its law to be put on the ballot, so opponents targeted Walker and the three state senators.
Efforts to recall at least three Republican state senators were also expected to be launched Tuesday.
Walker said Monday he was trying not to get distracted by the recall and would remain focused on his 2010 campaign pledge to grow jobs in the state by 250,000 before the four-year term he was elected to serve is over.
He defended his record and said voters were ready to move forward and didn't want to get stuck in an endless campaign cycle.
"We've made a lot of progress," Walker said. "It's a new day in Wisconsin."
He launched his first television ad of the campaign, defending his record while the words "Recall: No" appeared on the screen. The ad was running statewide, except in Milwaukee, according to Walker's campaign manager Keith Gilkes.
Walker said in an interview that he planned a series of ads with people talking about how his initiatives are working in their communities as well as he plans for the future.
"We really believe people want to hear about where we're headed," Walker said. "I think it's important for people to hear my positive vision."
Republicans currently hold a narrow one-seat majority in the state Senate after two GOP incumbents were ousted in recall elections this summer.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Monday he expected to be targeted for recall in addition to three of his colleagues who defeated Democratic incumbents last year. Democrats said they planned to start recalls against Sens. Van Wanggaard of Racine, Pam Galloway of Wausau and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls.
Governors have been recalled from office only twice in U.S. history, in North Dakota in 1921 and in California when voters removed Gov. Gray Davis from office in 2003.
"Any recall attempts filed will be nothing more than a shameless power grab by the Democrats and their liberal special interests, and will not deter Republicans from moving the state forward under responsible leadership," Republican Party spokeswoman Nicole Larson said Monday.
Democrats do not yet have an announced candidate to take on Walker should enough signatures be collected to force an election. The earliest such an election could occur, without any expected delays in verifying the signatures or legal challenges, is March 27. Most expect any election would be later in the spring or in the summer.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
STORY FROM 11/14/11
In just a few hours, the official effort to recall Governor Scott Walker gets underway. And Monday night, last minute preparations are going on.
Democrats locally say they're ready to get out and get signatures, but republicans say they're doubtful they'll get it done. Those wanting to recall the governor need to get more than half a million signatures from Tuesday through January 15.
If they do that, political experts say they could be on the path to making history.
The door hangers are prepped, and the bumper stickers are all ready to go as the Eau Claire County Democrats train volunteers in the Recall Walker effort to canvass starting at the stroke of midnight tonight.
“There will be a countdown to midnight and we're calling it midnight madness here,” says Kristin Dexter, the chair of the Eau Claire County Democrats.
With half a million signatures of eligible voters needed in sixty days, which falls over deer hunting and the holiday season, democrats say they're hoping to ride the wave of anti-Walker sentiment from earlier this year.
“It's a bit over 540 thousand, but nobody doubts that we will collect that. Both the republicans and democrats say that you will have no problem getting those signatures,” says Dexter.
“Personally I think they have a hard row to hoe here, with all of those signatures needed in only sixty days,” says Eau Claire County Republican Chair Brian Westrate.
“My guess is that we'll have the recall election. The big question is, will the governor actually lose the recall election? A lot of that would have to be tied to the candidate the democrats bring forth. We know that the rules that have been set for nearly unlimited spending,” says UW-Eau Claire Political Science Professor Geoff Peterson.
Peterson says in the past one hundred years, only two other governors have been successfully recalled in the United States, and for more than just unpopular policies.
“The idea that a governor could be recalled simply based on the decisions he's making is unusual, and we'll see what happens in the next few months,” says Peterson.
Dems say there will be a rally tomorrow on the UW-Eau Claire campus to kick of signing recall petitions. A spokesman for the Government Accountability Board says you have to be an eligible voter for your signature to count.
Both parties are also planning rallies this Saturday at the capitol in Madison, either for or against walker.