Today, petitions were filed to recall four Republican state senators in Wisconsin (recall petitions have already been filed against four Democratic state senators). That means that Democrats, union members, and friends have 60 days from today to get enough signatures (at least 25 percent of the district's voters in the past gubernatorial election) necessary to hold a recall election. If they get enough signatures, a recall election could be held sometime in July.
“This isn't a surprise to us,” Republican state senator Randy Hopper tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "[A recall petition] wasn’t a matter of if it was a matter of when." But if the goal is to use the recall petition to get Republicans to back down, Hopper says it isn't going to work.
“As anybody who knows anything about collective bargaining knows, everything about collective bargaining has a fiscal note to it,” says Hopper. “There is no backing down. It’s about time we had people willing to stand up and be willing to do what they said they were going to do, and not buckle under pressure.”
Hopper is one of the Democrats' top targets. "Make no mistake, these Republican Senators are vulnerable to recall for their radical partisan overreach," wrote the Wisconsin Democratic party in a fundraising email today. "Senator Randy Hopper won his last election by just 184 votes."
“It’s widely known here that I probably have one of the more difficult districts in the state for casting this vote,” says Hopper. “I have a lot of correctional facilities, a couple universities, and a couple of tech schools [in my district]. I have the second largest population of state employees in the state.”
"But it's the right thing to do," Hopper says of the budget repair bill. “If I get recalled because of doing what's right in the interest of the state, and even if the true benefits won’t be seen for long after I’m done anyway, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.”
Hopper quoted one colleague who says, “This isn't something we're going to run our next campaigns on, this is something we're going to tell our grandkids about.”
Though a petition hasn't been filed yet in his district, Republican state senator Dan Kapanke is another Republican who could be vulnerable in a recall election. Kapanke had a slim 2008 margin of victory, and his district is represented by a Democrat in the U.S House. But Kapanke, like Hopper, isn't backing down.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who’s taking the threat of a recall lightly,” Kapanke told me on Friday. “That’s very serious and very real.” But he said that threat won't deter him. “At the end of the day, what is Wisconsin going to look like in five years or ten years?" Kapanke said. "That’s far more important than my job as a state senator or anybody’s job as a state senator.”
While recall efforts could potentially bring down some state senators, it seems very unlikely that recall efforts will be able to thwart a vote on Walker's budget bill.
Given the timeline for potential recall elections, the elections almost certainly can't be held before June 30, when the current fiscal year expires and a new biennial budget must be passed. And, as the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel points out, Democrats really can't wait until the end of June without serious budget consequences: The state could run out of Medicaid funding "as soon as April 1" if Democrats don't return to the capitol and allow a vote.
Wisconsin senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald told me earlier today that Republicans are content to wait out the Democrats. “They seem fractured," Fitzgerald said. "They're really not even in the same location. Some are coming home at night."
Fitzgerald said he is continuing to send state troopers to the homes of the absentee Democrats, as authorized by senate rules, to tell them to return to the capitol. But the order is not to arrest the Democrats. “We're trying to be measured in our response," he says. "We’re not trying to overplay our hand." Earlier today, the senate passed a resolution fining the 14 fugitive senate Democrats $100 per day.