Wisconsin recall organizers Thursday added three Democratic state senators and one GOP senator to the list of lawmakers in line for recall elections over their opposition to or support of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's law curtailing collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Committees to recall Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover and Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie filed the signatures needed with the Government Accountability Board. All three groups had thousands more signatures than required to trigger a recall election.
Hours later, the committee to recall Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills submitted 30,000 signatures to trigger her recall election. Naomi Cobb, the main petitioner for the Darling group, said there was strong support for the recall, despite Darling's relatively Republican district.
"The reason why I filed these papers is because I think she is not listening to her district," Cobb said. "There are many people she is not in touch with, has many values that... are not representative of the district. I don't think entrenched is the right word. I think she is out of tune, she's not available and she's not voting correctly."
Darling said she has heard that recall organizers misrepresented their efforts, telling people their petition was in support of her. Still, she said she's ready to face a recall and isn't afraid to present her background and record to voters.
Darling and three Democrats join four GOP senators who have had recall petitions filed against them. Petitions still are being circulated against five other Democrats and three other Republicans. The senators are being targeted for backing or opposing a bill that would strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights. A judge weighing a lawsuit challenging the law has blocked it from taking effect, but told legislators the lawsuit would be moot if they voted again and passed the measure.
Democrats, who control 14 Senate seats, would have to take three of the Republicans' 19 seats to hold a majority.
Dan Hunt, an organizer for the group seeking Wirch's ouster, said the recall effort was motivated by the Democratic senators' decision to leave the state for weeks in an effort to block a vote on the collective bargaining bill.
"I think the vast majority of (Wirch's) constituents felt unrepresented when he left Madison, so that made our effort, again, something that could happen," Hunt said.
Neither he nor Kim Simac, an organizer of the Holperin recall effort, would rule out running in a recall election, but both said they wanted to see how the situation developed.
The Government Accountability Board has 31 days after each filing to review the signatures, but will ask a court for an extension to handle the large volume of recall reviews and any possible challenges to the signatures.
Mike Tate, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said the party would challenge the signatures on the conservatives' petitions.
"Until we get a chance to look at the sheets, which are being turned in today, we don't know," Tate said. "But I guarantee to the reporters on this call, there will be fraudulent signatures turned in."
Holperin and Hansen said they expect recall elections will happen. Hansen said he is more focused on crafting the two-year state budget.
"Some people were looking for a reason to take us on, and they've found it," Hansen said. "It's their right, it's democracy in action. Ultimately, the people in the 30th district and the people in those other districts will decide who they want to represent them until 2012."
Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke, of La Crosse, has already challenged signatures recalling him on the grounds that the group improperly filed registration statements with election officials. The campaign manager for Sen. Randy Hopper, of Fond du Lac, has said Hopper will challenge the signatures as well, claiming they were collected under false pretenses. Sens. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Luther Olsen of Ripon have said they will review the signatures.
The senators have 10 days after the filings in which to challenge the signatures.