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No Wisconsin Recall Fatigue as Signatures Surge Against Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Steve and Peggy Arnold, retirees armed with outrage and a sandwich board, pick spots to stake out on sidewalks every day as they gather signatures to force Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker out of office.

The Arnolds, who live in Madison, the capital, have collected more than 1,200 signatures in the past four weeks amid a statewide effort to bring off the third gubernatorial recall in U.S. history.

“We’ve only missed one day,” said Peggy Arnold, 62, a former social-studies teacher and counselor undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Wisconsin will be going into a New Year that resembles the current one -- torn over the actions of Walker, 44, the first-term Republican who provoked organized labor by pushing collective-bargaining curbs through the Legislature. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the capital in February and March, and $43 million was spent on recall campaigns against state senators who supported Walker’s efforts.

“This is simply the shorts before the feature,” said Mordecai Lee, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “The presumption was that the steam was out of the recall movement. It turns out that wasn’t the case.”

The Arnolds are part of a volunteer army of 5,000 who defied Walker’s predictions by collecting since mid-November more than 507,000 signatures, 33,000 shy of the minimum to authorize an ouster vote next year.

On The Way

“The people of Wisconsin have said enough is enough,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said yesterday in suburban Milwaukee after announcing the signature totals and the goal of bringing the total to 720,000 during the next month. “We are well on our way.”

Recall advocates have until Jan. 17 to collect the names. The Government Accountability Board of Wisconsin will review the signatures after they are submitted. The board has said it will need 31 days to count them.

“We have no doubt the Democrats are rallying their left-wing base around their blatant power grab for the governor’s mansion,” Ben Sparks, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement.

Walker, whose office offered no comment on yesterday’s announcement, is running television ads defending his actions. The Friends of Scott Walker campaign said yesterday that it raised $5.1 million in the most recent reporting period.

Not So Quiet

In August, Walker predicted during an interview with Bloomberg News that voters had “had it” with recalls and that by year-end “things will quiet down.”

Only two U.S. governors have been recalled from office, Grey Davis of California in 2003, and Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921. John McAdams, a political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, was among those who predicted recall organizers would fail to force a third.

“I was wrong,” McAdams said in a telephone interview from his office. “There’s a lot of bitterness toward Scott Walker.”

It’s energizing people like the Arnolds, who were among the tens of thousands at the Capitol in February and March. “We were just outraged, and the outrage continues,” Peggy Arnold said.

In Platteville, a southwest Wisconsin community of 11,200, Jerry Bartels, 60, a retired teacher, runs the recall operation there in a small office above a grocery store.

“I’ve gathered 80 or 90 signatures,” Bartels said. “I’ve not had anybody hassle me, other than the occasional middle-finger salute. I understand there are two sides to it.”

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