An effort to recall Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over his contentious union rights law will begin next month, meaning an election could be held as early as next spring.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said recall petitions will be circulated starting Nov. 15, giving supporters until Jan. 17 to collect 540,208 signatures.
Walker has become a national hero to many Republican and conservatives and is a hot ticket on the fundraising and speaking circuit. He also is a top target for unions and Democrats after his proposal that took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers made Wisconsin the epicenter of this year's political fight over union rights.
"It has become clearer than ever that the people of Wisconsin _ the traditions and institutions of our great state _ cannot endure any more of Scott Walker's abuses. To preserve Wisconsin, we must begin the recall of Walker as soon as possible," Tate said in a statement on the party's website.
Two Republican state senators who voted for the law lost recall elections this summer, while four other Republicans and three Democrats survived recalls. The nine elections attracted $44 million in spending from national unions, conservative groups and others.
Tate said Tuesday that more than $60,000 had been raised in the first 17 hours after the recall timeline was announced.
Under Wisconsin law, a person must be in office at least a year before recall petitions can be submitted. The soonest they could even be circulated against Walker, who took office on Jan. 3, was Nov. 4.
A coalition called United Wisconsin is leading the Walker recall effort and has collected pledges from more than 200,000 people to sign petitions. United Wisconsin said Tuesday that it would be opening offices statewide and enlisting volunteers with the goal to collect at least 700,000 signatures.
Former state Democratic Party executive director Meagan Mahaffey did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin said it welcomed the recall effort.
"Wisconsin school districts and local municipalities have saved millions of taxpayer dollars thanks to the Governor's reforms, and 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," Stephan Thompson, the state GOP's executive director, said in a statement.
Tate's statement accused Walker of being "dishonest with the people of Wisconsin" when he ran for governor.
"Soon after he took office, he proposed a radical change to state law by trying to take away state workers' rights to collective bargaining which he never mentioned once during the campaign," Tate said.
There have only been two successful gubernatorial recall elections in U.S. history. The first was in 1921 in North Dakota and the other was when California Gov. Gray Davis was removed from office in 2003.
In Wisconsin, once recall backers file the required paperwork to start collecting signatures, they have 60 days to return the 540,208 required to trigger the election. If the effort starts on Nov. 15, the deadline for supporters to turn in petitions would be Jan. 17, according to Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney.
Once signatures are submitted to the board, it has 31 days to review them. It will likely seek an extension to review the large number or signatures, similar to one it received for the recalls targeting state senators. Legal fights could also delay any election.
With no delays, the soonest the election could take place is March 27. And if that is a primary, the general election would be April 24.
"It is not possible to say with any certainty when the election would be, especially to say it could be in conjunction with any existing election," Magney said.
No Democrat has announced plans to run against Walker. People mentioned as potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse, former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey of Wausau, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Erpenbach said he would "definitely take a look" at running, but he had no timeline in mind for making a decision. Falk's spokeswoman Melissa Mulliken said Falk would be open to running but did not elaborate.
Barca praised the recall effort, but did not comment on whether he would be a candidate. Kind's spokesman had no comment. Obey did not immediately return a message.
Wisconsin has four previously scheduled elections next year: the spring primary on Feb. 21, the spring election and presidential primary on April 3, the fall primary on Sept. 11 and the fall general election on Nov. 6.