Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Faces Recall: Campaigners to Recall Governor Scott Walker Submitted Signatures to Force a New Election, but Their Victory Relies on the Public Being Ignorant of the Disputed Law's Benefits

Article excerpt

As the year 2011 was nearing its end, Democrats and their labor union allies around the. state of Wisconsin were working aggressively to gather enough signatures to force Governor Scott Walker into facing a recall election. Within two months of taking office in January of 2011, the newly elected Republican Governor had proposed a plan that would require most public-sector workers (law-enforcement officers and lire fighters were exempted) to contribute more of their salaries to their pensions and healthcare plans, and that would take away most of the collective bargaining powers from the respective public-sector unions. Governor Walker had insisted that the changes were necessary in order to help balance Wisconsin's $3.6 billion structural budget deficit. Democrats and their labor Union allies considered the proposed plan to be nothing less than a frontal assault on the collective bargaining rights of state government employees. Fourteen Democratic state Senators ran off to hide in Illinois for nearly a month in order to prevent a quorum and stall passage of the legislation. In the end with both houses of the state legislature under Republican control, the legislation ultimately passed and Governor Walker signed it into law in March, launching a political firestorm that is still raging.

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In a late December interview with the \Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journal sum, Governor Walker, who normally has a reputation for vigorously defending his positions, sounded uncharacteristically contrite, as he acknowledged making mistakes in how he had gone about achieving his political agenda. His biggest regret was not having done a better job of selling his changes regarding the collective bargaining powers of the public-sector unions, such as pointing out the cost savings that can he realized when school districts have more flexibility in negotiating compensation for teachers. That initiative sparked huge protests, including an around-the-clock occupation of the Capitol building that went on for a month, and the. largest protest rallies in state history. which attracted as many as an estimated I 00,000 demonstrators to the Capitol Square. in Madison.

In the interview at the Executive Residence. Governor Walker explained it thusly:

  I just kind of came in and said, Okay. here is the problem, here
  is the solution; I will just go fix it." And I did not spend a lot
  of time building up a communications effort to explain the reasons
  why. The most common complaint I get, which I think is legitimate,
  is people say I am really disappointed you did not do a better
  job of explaining it"

Governor Walker's standing was further undermined last February by media reports of the infamous telephone call when a prankster passing himself off as billionaire David Koch was able to induce Walker to take the call. During the ensuing telephone conversation, Walker boasted about his national media appearances and referred to his plan regarding collective bargaining as dropping a bomb." Walker claimed that his comments during that call were not inconsistent with anything else that he had said in other contexts, hut admitted. 6 Just the fact that I was duped. that I would go off and talk. about stuff like that. yeah, it was stupid."

Playing an Perceptions

That February incident was like pouring gasoline on a fire. Enraged activists. who were forced to wait until November 1 5 to begin the recall process. recently turned in more than a million signatures on petitions to recall the Governor, virtually guaranteeing that. even after the signatures are verified, they would have no trouble reaching their goal of 540,000, which is the number of signatures required by law to launch a recall election. Wisconsin Democrats and United Wisconsin, the groups overseeing the recall effort, had set a goal of 720.000 signatures. which is 33 percent of the 2010 general election turnout, as opposed to the 25 percent required by law. …