MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats say they've collected enough signatures to trigger a recall election for one of eight Republican state senators they're seeking to oust for backing the governor's divisive union rights law, but they will have to wait at least a month before election officials verify the names.
Democrats from state Sen. Dan Kapanke's district in La Crosse filed petitions Friday with about 21,700 signatures. If the Government Accountability Board determines that 15,588 are valid, it would trigger the fifth recall of a state official in Wisconsin history. It would be just the 21st recall of a state official in U.S. history.
Democratic Party members and their Madison-area supporters surrounded committee volunteer Richelle Zimmerman as she signed the forms needed to file the signatures. Zimmerman, 36, a social worker with La Crosse County Human Services, said the recall was needed to make sure lawmakers hear the voice of Wisconsin voters.
Kapanke didn't return calls for comment Friday, but the senator defended his vote for the law earlier this week as a necessary to balance the state's budget while minimizing layoffs. He admitted he may have gone about the legislative process differently "if I were governor."
Republicans approved the bill without the 14 Democratic senators who had fled the state in a vote that is being challenged in court. A Dane County judge has blocked it from going into effect while she considers a lawsuit claiming Republicans passed the law illegally.
La Crosse Republicans opened a campaign office in anticipation of the recall. Kapanke said that while he believes support for the law is increasing, he's not sure what effect it'll have.
Kapanke won his 2008 election against Democratic challenger Tara Johnson by only 2,507 votes and lives in a district that traditionally leans Democratic.