Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose campaign to limit the power of public employee unions aroused the ire of labor groups across the country, will face a recall election later this spring, the state’s Government Accountability Board ruled Friday.
The board, which enforces state election laws, voted 5-0 to order the election. The decision had been expected because the board had certified that there were more than enough petition signatures to force the vote.
At stake will be the political futures of two Republicans, Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The board certified that there were 900,938 valid signatures to recall Walker and 808,990 valid signatures to recall Kleefisch. Officials said 540,208 signatures were required for the recall vote to be ordered.
Four GOP state senators were also targeted for recall, one of whom has resigned. All the elections will be decided June 5; primaries to determine possible replacements will be held May 8.
Even though the formal announcement was made Friday, both sides have been raising money and campaigning for weeks in the expectation that Wisconsin will have a chance to become the third state to recall a sitting governor. Voters decided to dump California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921.
“Today, for the first time in Wisconsin history, a recall election was certified against a sitting governor,” state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said in a prepared statement. “This is no great cause for celebration, mainly because the reasons for the recall are so grave.”
Last year, Walker and his GOP allies who controlled the Legislature pushed through measures that effectively ended collective-bargaining rights for most state workers. The moves also forced state workers to contribute more to their pension and health care costs. The Republicans said the changes were needed to ease pressures on the financially strapped state and its localities.
The move set off weeks of anti-Walker demonstrations in the capital.
At least four Democrats have already announced that they will seek the governor’s office, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom Walker defeated in 2010. Another prominent Democrat in the race is former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who has been endorsed by the teachers and state employee unions. Also having announced are Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma.
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