battle of the Wisconsin Recall Efforts
Everyone is out to make an example of the so-called “other guy”.
Fourteen Wisconsin state senators, all Democrats, flee the state for three weeks, bringing government to a halt in an effort to stop Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill. After three weeks, the fugitive Democrats return in failure. And then, when a rich and highly organized effort to punish lawmakers is launched, it’s directed not at the Democrats who ran away but at the Republicans who stayed home and did their job.
That is precisely what is now happening in Wisconsin. Local and national labor organizations, enraged by the successful Republican effort to limit the collective bargaining powers of public employees unions, are pouring money and manpower into petitions to recall GOP state senators. At the same time, Republican drives to recall runaway Democrats, while rich in volunteer spirit, are working with far less money and organized support.
On the Democratic side are the AFL-CIO, the big public worker unions, party organizations and activist groups like MoveOn.org, which have already raised millions of dollars online. On the Republican side are a few Tea Party groups, taxpayer organizations and not a lot more.
“They’re off to a quicker start,” Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Mark Jefferson says. “We have some structural disadvantages because taxpayer groups and volunteer organizations are more loosely put together than a union syndicate.”
Officially, there are eight Republicans and eight Democrats facing recall petitions. But it appears the most serious challenges involve three on each side. Democrats are working hard to knock off Republican senators Dan Kapanke, Alberta Darling and Randy Hopper. Republicans are targeting Democratic senators Robert Wirch, Jim Holperin and Dave Hansen.
Wisconsin law requires recall petitioners to gather thousands of signatures before an actual election is held. The specific number, based on voting in the most recent elections, is different for each district but ranges from about 15,000 to 22,000.
That’s where the organizing strength of the AFL-CIO and its unions come in. Labor and its Democratic allies realize that Wisconsin is a critical battle and are desperate to make sure other states do not follow Wisconsin’s lead. Republicans, meanwhile, seem less aware of the stakes.
“If Republicans do not take this very seriously, they could be in trouble here,” says Steve Baas of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which supports Walker’s budget reforms… Beyond organization, there is a difference in the two recall efforts. The conservative drive to recall Democratic senators began in outrage over the Democrats’ flight from the state. How could lawmakers who took an oath of office do that? The liberal drive to recall Republicans began as an effort to pressure those senators to vote against Walker’s budget bill. Now that the bill has passed, it’s an effort to make examples of the senators who supported it.
For Hunt, it’s about principle.
“I’m doing it because my senator didn’t represent me in Madison,” Hunt says. “He left, and I think that is the worst thing that can happen in a legislative democracy. People who choose to leave their post on purpose, just to avoid a vote on a bill — that’s an egregious act that requires citizen reaction.”
What should be about some sort of legality and obligation now simply breaks down to base partisanship.
What Education Week says on the matter of recalls:
Looming on the horizon are attempts to recall state senators through special elections, something both conservative and liberal forces are organizing.
Campaign-finance laws prevent WEAC or its parent union, the NEA, from contributing to, or organizing volunteers for, an effort to recall eight Republican senators until the elections are actually scheduled. But the unions likely will make use of their political action committees—separate funds to which members voluntarily contribute—if and when such elections come to pass, Mr. Carlson said.
Of the eight GOP senators, three won their 2008 races with less than 52 percent of the vote, and could potentially be in danger in a recall election, according to Mr. Franklin of the University of Wisconsin. Any successes, he said, might be more symbolic than practical, given that the legislation has been approved.
It has essentially broken down along party lines and no one should be surprised at that.
It should also come as no surprise that Byron York’s Examiner treats the unions as the bad guys and that Education Week treats Conservatives as…. well, horrible people (“Besieged by state proposals to eviscerate collective bargaining, eliminate teacher tenure, and make it harder to collect dues, teachers’ unions are fighting back”).