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Recall Election Petitions in Wisconsin to Be Delivered Today

Today, activists from around Wisconsin will travel to Madison to deliver petitions for the recall of Governor Scott Walker, his Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and as many as four Republican state Senators. Walker has gone AWOL from the Capitol on this day, scheduled to be in New York, undoubtedly raising money for what will be a massively expensive and bitter recall election.

This will mark the first recall election against a sitting Wisconsin governor.  Only two other gubernatorial recalls in history have been successful in removing the incumbent from office, the most recent being California’s Gray Davis in 2003.

In this case, Wisconsin runs recall elections much like regular elections, with a primary for the parties and a general election 6 weeks later. If only one candidate steps forward, there would be no primary. But that is unlikely, as a number of potential candidates have emerged, and though some are trying to unify to avoid a primary, others see the potential for a real debate in public to raise the profile of the primary winner.

With an election on the horizon, all that’s missing is a candidate. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; former U.S. Rep. David Obey; state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton; state Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville; former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, are on the short list of names being floated as possible candidates.

To whittle down the list in an effort to make an endorsement, Beil says he and other union leaders have been meeting with possible candidates for weeks. That included a large meeting in December between Beil, Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, plus building trade, steel worker and service employee unions.

The unions appear very cool on Barrett, who ran against Walker in 2010. Barrett employed some of the new collective bargaining restrictions to force higher contributions on health care and pensions. Many of the other candidates may not have a statewide profile and would need a primary to build name recognition. Mahlon Mitchell, the African-American president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, and a charismatic and ever-present figure during the labor protests of last February, has raised the possibility of running for Lt. Governor.

The LA Times picks up on something in their curtain-raiser that I’ve noticed about the recall, that it will turn on your view of the relative health of the Wisconsin economy. And the Times doesn’t mind being a truth vigilante in pointing out that the economy of the state has gone stagnant under Walker’s watch, a key factor in the recalls.

Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday will submit a mountain of petition signatures demanding his recall, and in anticipation the embattled Republican has flooded airwaves with ads highlighting his stewardship in creating “thousands of new jobs.”

It is a claim at once correct and misleading, federal jobs data suggest, underscoring how the drive to dislodge Walker is shaping up as both a fact-challenged slugfest and a pre-presidential election proxy for competing economic visions in a sharply divided land.

Democrats have been as quick to inflate the magnitude of job stagnation as Walker has been to paint an unduly rosy portrait […]

Central to Walker’s approach was his pledge that it would lead to the creation of 250,000 jobs by the end of his four-year term. So far, however, job growth under Walker has been anemic, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Non-farm employment grew by 4,500 jobs between November 2010 and November 2011, up just 0.2% — one of the worst performances among the states.

If you ignore that on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand paragraph, basically the Times gets it right; the data show that Walker’s tenure has been horrible for jobs, even while America experienced a slight bounce-back in 2011. He has completely failed in his campaign promises, and as people vote with their pocketbooks, that will be a huge factor in the recall election, which if the signatures qualify will be held sometime in the spring. Of course, there is likely to be 4-5 months between now and the election, raising the possibility of a jobs resurgence in the state, which would alternately help Walker and, if accompanied by a national resurgence, help Barack Obama in his re-election campaign.

Walker has already raised $5.1 million for the recall, so any opponent starts in a deep hole. But the debate has raged for so long in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see how paid media will find any persuadables to move.

There also look to be state Senate recalls on the horizon, and if folded into the same election as Walker’s recall, they will feature high turnout. If Democrats flip just one of the four seats, a strong possibility in some of the purpler districts up for grabs, they get control of the state Senate.

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David Dayen

David Dayen