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Wisconsin recall petition gets over 1 million signatures; Democratic challenger Falk steps forward

Wisconsin Democrats furious with Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) policies have collected more than double the signatures necessary to force a recall election. As Rachel Weiner reported:

Democrats and their allies in organized labor say they delivered over a million recall petition signatures against Gov. Scott Walker (R) Tuesday, far more than the 540,208 needed to spark a recall election.

The filing kicks off the latest phase in a fight over collective bargaining rights that began almost as soon as Walker took office last January.

Democrats also filed 845,000 signatures to trigger a recall against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) and enough to recall four Republican state senators, according to party chairman Mike Tate.

Last summer, Democrats attempted to win back control of the state Senate after the Republican leadership passed legislation limiting public workers’ bargaining rights. They recalled two Republicans but fell one seat short of flipping the chamber.

But Democrats and unions pressed on against Walker, who was not eligible for recall until this year. According to the New York Times’ Nate Silver, if last summer’s recalls had been a statewide vote, the results would have been too close to call.

Anti-Walker activists needed a substantial signature buffer, because some signatures will almost certainly be thrown out by the Government Accountability Board. Collecting double the required amount, however, is a symbolic gesture. Democrats pointed out to reporters at a news conference in Wisconsin that Walker was elected with only 1.1 million votes.

“We had no doubt the Democrats would be able to rally their left-wing supporters around this baseless and expensive recall effort,” said Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brad Courtney. The Democratic Governors Association “plans to work with our allies to field a candidate,” according to chairman Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland.

A Democrat has also stepped forward to challenge Scott Walker in a recall election, setting the stage for the fight to come in Wisconsin. As Rachel Weiner explained:

The recall election against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) won’t be official for months, but one Democrat has already declared her candidacy. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk launched her bid Wednesday.

“Yesterday, the grassroots movement that began a year ago made history,” she said in a YouTube video sent to supporters. She says she “traveled around the state doing all I can to help the signature-counting” and that “together, we will continue to make history.”

Falk ran for governor in 2002 but lost to then state attorney general Jim Doyle in the primary. She also ran and lost the race for attorney general in 2006. Falk stepped down from her post as Dane County Executive in 2010.

“Statewide voters have already twice rejected Falk’s out-of-touch, big-government ideas, and this year will be no different,” Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox said in a statement.

Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews added in a statement that Falk was “hand-picked by big-government, public employee union bosses.”

While she may be Republicans’ current target, Falk is unlikely to be the only Democratic candidate in the race.

State Sen. Tim Cullen committed to running before the recall signatures were even filed. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker by five points in 2010, is considering a bid. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, Rep. Ron Kind, former Rep. Dave Obey and state Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Kathleen Vinehout are all potential contenders. So is Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.

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