In The News
The nuts and bolts and subtext of Recall Walker
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted Nov. 3, 2011
Even with legal side issues unresolved, Recall Walker is moving ahead at full speed, training gaggles and googles of citizens and confident that it can deflect any incoming missiles seeking delay and confusion.
Technically, recall signatures can be collected on forms starting Nov. 15, and must reflect a minimum of 540,260 by January 17, 2012. But intense preparation is kosher right now, even required to manage a complicated process. The recall movement has been flooded with volunteers to do phone banks, gather names, vet emails and phones and instruct thousands to go door to door with clipboards and persuasive reasons.
In Milwaukee, recall offices are established and operating phone banks. Copy machines are set to hum. United Wisconsin, a group that has led recall efforts and has more than 200,000 names in its piggy bank, has opened an office at 2604 N. Booth St.
Recall Walker offices – all of which will be staffed 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and with weekend hours by Nov. 15 – have now set up shop at three urban locations, 7984 W. Appleton Ave. and 3208 W. National Ave. in Milwaukee and at 1370 S. 74th St. in West Allis. Around the state, many other offices and education sessions are being provided, including online notifications of training and events.
(On a different issue that actually seems related given both the calendar and the interlocking overreach, the voter ID bill that goes into effect in February of 2012 has already prompted educational workshops and training sessions that begin in Milwaukee Nov. 5.)
Recalls have traditionally been a weapon of last resort – and a weapon of the angry right-wing, if you look at history -- so organizers fully understand why there is some resistance in the state to just accepting the concept.
The concept, maybe.
But not the target.
“Walker’s own actions are removing those hesitations,” one Republican corporate attorney conceded. Another angry traditionalist, an official in a rural community, sourly described the Madison legislature as “the gift that keeps on giving –- to the Democrats.”
The aim of most recall leaders is not just reaching the minimal number of votes needed (only a fourth of those cast in the 2010 governor’s race) but building a cushion against challenges and “maybe even enough signatures to make it clear to him he’s lost the majority,” as one put it.
If the recall numbers prove big enough, the right candidate will emerge from an impressive pack of veterans and newcomers, say the organizers. They refused to be baited into expressing a preference but point out that new names and backers crop up almost daily.
All this uproar about the GOP rescue operation known as 2012 redistricting? A couple of points. One, it doesn’t affect the Walker recall, which is statewide, so this is one race that doesn’t care how protectively the GOP carves up the regions.
But district races will be part of the froth. Yes, the Republicans’ attempt to protect their own by moving up the redistricting clock seems dead in the water. But that in itself demonstrates to a once dubious public the power of recalls.
They do work and do make a difference. Look how even in the face of heavy outside GOP money, and largely in districts leaning GOP, the senate recall voters have already forced a changed environment.
Of the nine senate district recall elections last summer, five were won by anti-Walker forces. The results didn’t flip the state senate but reduced the GOP majority to one. And that’s already paid dividends.
At this writing it halted an egregious attempt to give more Republican-leaning communities a chance to vote in senate races they never could access before. The idea behind this hurry-up redistricting was to allow Republican areas that never voted in a senate race to be able to vote in the recall, diluting or flat eliminating more competitive communities.
One Republican senator, Dale Schultz, stood up, saying the communities that elected him should be the ones to recall or keep him. In closed sessions through Nov. 2, his GOP colleagues were working on him to change his mind. (Apparently they had some ugly help, since his Capitol office was egged early Nov. 3).
But thanks to the summer recalls it now takes only one independent conscience to block the juggernaut. Before, with a larger GOP majority, Schulz’s vote against the bargaining bill was not enough to stop it.
There is internal GOP resistance to another questionable bill that would force all recall petitions to be notarized. Sponsor Mary Lazich's bill clearly intended another impediment to the Walker recall, but organizers hardly seem worried – almost as if they expected this sneak attack and know how to make it backfire. After all, most union offices have a notary on hand and sympathetic groups are spreading information about how to become a notary.
That’s the background to already announced efforts to recall three GOP senators elected in 2010. Major groups are moving against Racine’s Van Wanggaard (District 21) and northwest Wisconsin’s Terry Moulton (23) and Pat Galloway (29). All replaced Democrats in 2010.
United Wisconsin has already said it will not supply its bank of some 200,000 names to the senate recall efforts, but that doesn’t mean many of the recall movements and political campaigns won’t intersect.
(As of this writing, all sides were waiting for a Government Accountability Board ruling if a separate recall would be needed for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, elected on a ticket with Walker. The recall organizers expect a separate recall will be necessary and sound prepared.)
The state senate recall people may also be doing the Walker recall petitions on a separate form -- and after Dec. 1 some citizens may also be circulating nomination papers for sympathetic area candidates in the nonpartisan April election with recall petitions in tow. As long as each is handled separately it can be done by the same person.
“It all works together,” noted one local candidate, who expects to pull some street power from all these movements and also give some street power back.
“I think the recall movement will benefit from our presence,” said a marshal for the Occupy Milwaukee events. In fact, Recall Walker signs and slogans have become a hefty part of that movement.
All these efforts – recalls, Occupy, campaigns of candidates in local races – seem to be gaining momentum, capitalizing on growing outrage at GOP extremism in Madison and Walker’s empty promise about jobs.
Under some bizarre campaign rules, a governor facing a recall can raise unlimited funds, something many think will lead Walker to drag out the process. But will money or outrage drive this election? Walker clearly must pray it will be money.
But don’t underestimate outrage. Said Milwaukee Area Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Sheila Cochran on Nov. 2. “We have ONE candidate. Scott Walker. And he has got to go. Fine if you don’t think we can win. But all we can do is try. All we can do is fight!”
Mindful of the rules – unions in their offices or official capacities cannot conduct recall signups, though every citizen can become involved – Sheila Cochran announced that the council will forgo its monthly meeting in December. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday December 7 at American Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave., will be given over to a free open meeting for the entire community.
Recall Walker will be the central topic Notices are going out to the jobless coalitions, Citizen Action Wisconsin, Occupy the Hood and other community groups to pack the place. Considerable training sessions will have taken place and recall petitions will be available.