UPDATE: Target met to recall Wis. GOP leader Fitzgerald - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Target met to recall Wis. GOP leader Fitzgerald

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)

Petitioners say more than enough signatures are being submitted to force a recall election against Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau.

Organizers said that they are turning in 20,600 signatures on Tuesday. At least 16,742 must be valid in order for there to be an election.

Fitzgerald says in a statement he is "ready to face this challenge." He says he's received a lot volunteer support since the recall drive began in November.

Fitzgerald is the most prominent of four Republican senators being targeted for recall. He has served as leader of the Senate's majority party since 2011 and has been a champion of Gov. Scott Walker's agenda.

Republicans have a narrow one-seat majority in the Senate.



Supporters of an unprecedented effort to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office said they will turn in more than enough signatures Tuesday to force the Republican into a recall election barely a year into his first term.

Walker, however, has no plans to be anywhere near the Capitol when recall organizers turn in the signatures by Tuesday's deadline. The governor is scheduled to be in New York when organizers say they will be unloading the stacks of petitions, weighing a ton, from a truck and hauling them into the state election board's offices.

The signature drive started two months ago, largely in reaction to a law pushed by the governor last year that ended nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public workers. Organizers say they have gathered far more than the 540,208 signatures required to force the election against both Walker and GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefish. If so, it would mark the first time such a recall campaign has been mounted against a Wisconsin governor.

Organizers say they also will turn in enough signatures targeting the Wisconsin Senate majority leader and three other GOP senators.

Once the recall petitions are in, the Government Accountability Board must certify that organizers have gathered enough signatures.

Walker, meanwhile, has been aggressively raising money and blanketing the airwaves with campaign ads, starting the night before recall petitions hit the streets in mid-November. He's also crisscrossed the country raising millions of dollars, taking full advantage of both the conservative rock star persona built as he put Wisconsin at the center of the national labor rights debate and a quirk in state law allowing those targeted for recall to ignore normal contribution limits until an election date is set.

There have been just two successful gubernatorial recalls in the nation's history -- against California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921.

But recalls have become common in Wisconsin since the political tumult of 2011 that saw Walker and Republicans pass a law effectively ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers. The opposition started with massive protests and then grew into organized campaigns first to recall state senators and then Walker himself.

Last summer, six Republican state senators and three Democrats faced recall elections. Two Republicans lost, leaving the party with a narrow one-vote majority in the Senate.

The Walker recall couldn't officially be filed until after he had served a year in office, an anniversary that was hit earlier this month. The four senators targeted this year include Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who served as a staunch defender of Walker's agenda and critic of 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state in an unsuccessful attempt to block the union bill. The three other Republican lawmakers targeted are all midway through their first terms.

Walker argues that while some of the decisions he made last year to balance a $3.6 billion state budget shortfall were difficult, the state is in a better financial position and will prosper in the long run. The state Republican Party has hit on the same theme, portraying Walker as a "do something" governor. "It's not always popular," the mailing says, "but it's working."

Walker reported in mid-December that he'd already raised $5.1 million, with about half of that coming from out of state. He received $250,000 alone from Bob Perry, the Texas conservative who was one of the main financial backers behind the Swift Boat Veterans ads that attacked Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Democrats don't know who will challenge Walker. Party and union leaders say they're not concerned about not having someone actively running against Walker and trying to match his fundraising. In fact, they say it was part of their strategy.

"It forced Walker and his minions to run on their record and issues rather than to run against an announced Democratic candidate," said Marty Beil, president of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, the largest union of state workers. "That was part of the rationale through the whole recall petition collection process."

Walker's campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said in a statement that the governor's record will "stand in stark contrast to whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is."

Numerous prominent Democrats have said they're considering a run, but the two highest profile ones -- former Sen. Russ Feingold and retiring Sen. Herb Kohl -- have repeatedly said they aren't interested.

Moderate Democrat state Sen. Tim Cullen has said he intends to take on Walker but has not made a formal announcement or been actively campaigning. He said he expects and welcomes a Democratic primary, which likely would be held in May, although the timing will be unclear until possible delays related to the signature verification process and any legal challenges are resolved.

"If there's not a primary, then who's actually deciding this?" Cullen said.

Walker and his allies say organized labor will decide the Democratic candidate. Public workers and their unions have been a driving force behind the recall, helping provide the manpower needed to circulate petitions.

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