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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Groups seeking to recall Gov. Scott Walker submitted nearly twice as many signatures Tuesday as required to force an election, an overwhelming number that may make an election later this year inevitable.
But Walker’s opponents still must transform public outrage over his pushback against unions into actual votes to oust him from office.
If the governor is worried, he’s not showing it: As petitions were delivered to election officials, he was out of state raising money to defend himself and the agenda that has made him a national conservative hero.
The 1 million signatures that United Wisconsin, the coalition that spearheaded the effort along with the Democratic Party, said were collected far exceeded the more than 540,000 needed.
The effort stemmed from anger over Walker’s aggressive moves during his first year in office that included effectively ended collective bargaining rights for nearly all public workers.
Petitioners on Tuesday also were submitting about 300,000 more signatures than were needed to trigger a recall election against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Between 23 percent and 56 percent above the number of signatures needed were also collected to force recall elections of four Republican state senators, including Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
The massive number of signatures against Walker — 85 percent above the level needed — could make it nearly impossible for opponents to successfully challenge enough of them to stop an election.
“I don’t know if it’s insurmountable, but it would be extremely difficult,” said Joshua Spivak, a recall expert and senior fellow at Wagner College in New York. In the 2003 Gov. Gray Davis recall in California, petitioners also turned in almost double what was needed — 1.6 million — and only about 18 percent were tossed, Spivak said.
Democrats, who have no candidate raising money to challenge Walker, concede they will not be able to match him dollar for dollar. Instead, they are counting on the same type of enthusiasm that drove the petition drive to translate into the campaign.
The two most prominent Democrats, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, have repeatedly said they aren’t interested.
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