An estimated million signatures has been gathered by opponents of Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker, in order to force him to defend his seat in a special election. (photo, from aljazeera.com)
Last year Mr Walker and state Republicans curbed public sector union’s rights, leading to days of protest and also becoming a conservative hero and putting the Midwest state at the centre of the US labour rights debate.
Mr Walker’s opponents are also angry at the $800m in budget cuts to schools passed under him.
The recall effort could not be officially filed until governor Walker served a year in office, which happened earlier this month.
On Tuesday organisers from United Wisconsin submitted about one million signatures, when 540,208 signatures are required to force the governor into a special election.
If the minimum signatures are verified, Mr Walker, a first-term governor, could face the recall election by this summer.
The success of the signature-gathering effort “represents a crystal clear indication of how strong the appetite is to stop the damage and turmoil that Scott Walker has brought to Wisconsin,” said Ryan Lawler, a board member of United Wisconsin, a political action committee which organised the effort to collect signatures.
State Democratic party chairman Mike Tate told AP news agency that given the number of signatures, the governor should not delay a vote, adding that he did not expect a recall before May.
He also said :“We very clearly believe there is no challenge, legal or otherwise, that would prevent these elections from going forward.”
However Mr Walker thinks it will be in June.
While under regular law the verification of the signatures must be finished in 31 days, state officials are going to request a 60-day period due to the huge amount of signatures.
On Tuesday Mr Walker was hosting a fundraiser in New York City and he already has at least $5m in his election war-chest, half of it coming from out-of-state donors.
In a statement the governor expressed his confidence regarding the vote : “I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget and hold the line on taxes.”
He also said that voters would reward him for balancing a $3.6bn budget shortfall without laying off state employees or raising taxes.
The recall effort was described as “shameful” by the chairman of the Republican party of Wisconsin Brad Courtney, who said in a statement that it would “accomplish nothing but saddle Wisconsin taxpayers with over $9 million in unbudgeted costs”.
The Democrat who will run in the expected recall ballot is not known yet, although Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett – who ran for governor against Scott Walker in 2010 – and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette, have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Last year’s fight over union rights and other Republican-backed measures could lead 17 Wisconsin state senators – 11 Republicans and six Democrats – to face special recall elections this year.
And those elections could tip the balance of power in the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 17-16 majority.