MADISON (Reuters) - Wisconsin Democrats will launch a drive November 15 to force Republican Governor Scott Walker into a recall election and are confident of getting the more than 540,000 signatures needed, a party spokesman said on Tuesday.
The effort to recall Walker follows an unsuccessful bid by state Democrats to take control of the Wisconsin Senate through an unprecedented array of six recall elections over the summer. Democrats picked up two seats, but remained in the minority.
Walker's proposals to curb the powers of public sector unions in the state as part of the budget process, ultimately approved by Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature, sparked massive protests earlier this year.
Democrats collected far more signatures than required in forcing recall elections in six Republican-controlled senate districts and are confident of collecting the signatures for a Walker recall election, party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said.
"We had the warm up in the summer and now we have the main event," Zielinski said.
Republicans also forced three Senate Democrats to defend their seats, making a record nine recall elections. The three Democrats held their seats.
Walker was elected in November 2010 and under Wisconsin law, he must have been in office at least one year before a recall bid. Once the bid is launched, the recall proponents have 60 days to collect and file the signatures with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
Stephan Thompson, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said Wisconsin schools and cities had saved millions of dollars under the changes Walker pressed for.
"We welcome and encourage a comparison between the positive results we're seeing around the state and the failed policies of the past favored by those seeking a recall," Thompson said in a statement.
Walker's chief of staff, Keith Gilkes, left his post to return to a consulting business and begin advising the governor ahead of a possible recall effort.
The effort is being run in collaboration with United Wisconsin, a nonpartisan registered political action committee created to organize a Walker recall.
United Wisconsin said in a statement that it had already collected over 200,000 pledges. It wants to collect at least 700,000 signatures to ensure that after petition challenges it reaches the minimum needed to force a recall election.
(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Jerry Norton)