Over the weekend, a Democrat in Wisconsin announced her campaign to unseat GOP state senator Dan Kapanke, the Dems’ top recall target. State Rep. Jennifer Schilling said she would paint Kapanke as the number one stooge of Governor Scott Walker, in a race that is sure to be another referendum on the continuing unpopularity of Walker’s proposal to roll back bargaining rights.
Now it turns out that Democrats have unearthed something that will help them immeasurably by revealing Kapanke to be even more extreme on workers’ rights than Walker: Kapanke once reportedly said he could support rolling back the bargaining rights of cops and firefighters, who would be exempt even under Walker’s plan.
On February 23, just as Walker’s proposal was becoming a full-blown national controversy, the La Crosse Tribune reported that Kapanke came out for rolling back cop and firefighter bargaining rights at a gathering with constituents:
Kapanke said though it’s not “his call,” he thinks it makes sense to include public safety workers in the ban on collective bargaining.
Walker’s bill prohibits state and municipal workers from collective bargaining except on wages capped by inflation. Fire, police and state patrol unions, however, would still be allowed to negotiate contracts.
“That issue is going to be raised,” Kapanke said. “We’ll see if there’s enough will to include them.”
Keep in mind that Kapanke made this declaration well before it was understood how politically toxic Walker’s proposal — which exempted public safety workers — would become. Dems tell me that Kapanke’s position will figure heavily in the campaign to recall him, giving them ammo to paint him as even worse on workers’ rights than Walker.
Dems recently announced that they had collected 145 percent of the signatures required to trigger the election to recall Kapanke — and they did this with a speed that tied the record for fastest amassing of recall signatures in Wisconsin history. The high number of signatures virtually ensures that the recall election will happen, despite expected challenges to the signatures’ veracity, and reinforced the sense that Kapanke is very vulnerable indeed in a recall election.
More broadly, the national press is beginning to pick up on the fact that the grassroots energy unleashed by the fight over Walker’s proposals has yet to diminish, and that the recall efforts are proceeding full steam ahead. Kapanke’s declaration about targeting even cops and firefighters — who are generally more prone to vote Republican and are generally viewed as a kind of protected class of public employees — will only stoke the fires even more.