Wisconsin man snatches petitions aimed at Republican senator

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 24, 2011 6:57 PM
Wisconsin man snatches petitions aimed at Republican senator

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - In one sign of tensions raised by Wisconsin's budget battles, a man snatched petitions from a volunteer gathering support to recall a Republican state senator and drove away, police said on Thursday.

Charles Holcomb, 26, of River Falls in western Wisconsin near the Minnesota border, returned with the petitions aimed at Republican Senator Sheila Harsdorf five minutes later on Sunday, but dropped them out of a window into a puddle, police said.

Police traced the car to Holcomb and arrested him later at his home. He was cited for disorderly conduct, which carries a fine, Sergeant Jon Aubart said. Holcomb could not be reached immediately for comment on Thursday.

Recall petitions have been circulated for state senators of both parties after the weeks-long dispute over Republican Governor Scott Walker's proposals to limit the powers of public sector unions that sparked mass protests at the Capitol in Madison.

Opponents have sought to recall Democratic state senators who left Wisconsin for three weeks to stop a vote on the bill, signed into law by Walker last week, and of Republican senators who voted to approve the bill.

Harsdorf sits on the joint committee on finance among other committees. Lawmakers have to have been in office at least a year to be recalled under Wisconsin law and the committee seeking the recall has 60 days to gather signatures.

Holcomb approached a man seeking signatures outside a grocery store and told him "it was unfair what they were doing" to Harsdorf and it was "basically like spitting in her face," River Falls police officer Ryan Miller said in a report.

He admitted taking the petitions, saying he was "frustrated about everything that is happening now with the recalls and he just did not think it was right," Miller's report said.

A state court judge has blocked the law from taking effect temporarily and a state appeals court on Thursday said a Walker administration appeal should be heard directly by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Jerry Norton)