MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An effort to recall Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over his contentious union rights law will begin Nov. 15, Democrats announced Monday, meaning an election could be held as early as next spring.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said on the party's website that recall petitions will be circulated starting Nov. 15, giving supporters of the effort until Jan. 13 to collect 540,208 signatures.
Walker has become a national hero to many Republicans and conservatives and is a hot ticket on the fundraising and speaking circuit. But he is the top target for unions and Democrats as he became the face of the anti-union movement this year with his proposal that took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers.
"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 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.
Under Wisconsin law, a recall can't be started until a year after the officeholder was inaugurated. Walker was inaugurated on Jan. 3, which made Nov. 4 the soonest the recall effort could begin.
A group called United Wisconsin is leading the Walker recall effort and has collected pledges from more than 200,000 people to sign recall petitions. The group's leader, Mike Brown of Appleton, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Monday night.
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. "We cannot sit back and allow Scott Walker to continue to dismantle our education system, run our government as an auxiliary of corporate special interests, put our clean air and water at risk, and ignore an unemployment crisis that his policies exacerbated."
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. 13.
Once signatures are submitted to the Government Accountability 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.
If the board certifies the signatures, the recall election must be held six Tuesdays from that date. If more than two candidates run, that election would be the primary. A general election would be four weeks after that.
"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," said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board. "There are many aspects of the process that would make it difficult to do that because of the unpredictability of the timelines."
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, and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.
Tate did not say whether the recall would target both Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, has requested an opinion from the attorney general's office on how a recall against the governor would affect the lieutenant governor. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket in Wisconsin.
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.