MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – All six recalled Republican state senators asked a Dane County judge to block the special elections set for July 12. And the head of the state Republican Party said the GOP may run “protest,” or phony, Democrats in the GOP recalls, to force a “Democratic” primary and delay the elections by a month.
Recalls of three Democratic senators also have been certified, for elections set for July 19.
The six Republicans’ complaints are based on a technicality: that the recall petitioners were not identified as members of the Committees to Recall.
Republican state Senators Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac), Luther Olsen (Ripon), Dan Kapanke (La Crosse), Alberta Darling (River Hills), Sheila Harsdorf (River Falls) and Robert Cowles (Green Bay) sued the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board in separate but virtually identical complaints in Dane County Court.
They claim the Accountability Board accepted registrations that were filed by the Committees to Recall, but not by the individual Recall Petitioners.
None of the complaints mention the actual basis of the recalls: voter anger at the senators’ support for the union-busting Budget Repair Bill, and the legislative tricks used to enact it and publish it in defiance of a Dane County judge’s order.
Dane County is home to the state capital, Madison.
Recall petitions were filed across the state in the furor over Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill aka the 2011 Wisconsin Act.
In their complaints, the six Republican state senators cite Wis. Stat. § 9.10(2)(d), that “no petitioner may circulate a petition for the recall of an officer prior to completing registration.”
They say the recall petitioners filed Statements of Intent to circulate the petition, but did not file a registration statement, as required. Therefore, they say, the required 60-day circulation period has not commenced and the signatures may not be counted.
The Accountability Board on Friday ordered the three recall elections for Democratic state senators Jim Holperin (Eagle River), Robert Wirch (Pleasant Prairie) and Dave Hansen. Those recalls were put on hold last week because “the Board and its staff did not have enough time to consider the petitions,” the Board said in a statement.
The Board’s decision can be appealed to circuit court but the Democrats’ attorney says he doesn’t know if an appeal will be filed.
Democrats have been targeted for recall ostensibly because voters were angry at them for fleeing the state to deny Republicans a quorum on the Budget Repair Bill.
Republicans then passed the bill without a quorum, which set off a string of lawsuits, and a Dane County judge’s injunction against publishing the law, which she repeated after Gov. Walker published it anyway.
The so-called Budget Repair Bill (2011 Wisconsin Act 10) makes it illegal for public employees to collectively bargain for anything other than wages, and imposes other conditions making union representation more difficult.
Oral arguments were heard last week before the state Supreme Court in the fight over the anti-union law, where the Republicans appear likely to have their way, as a closely contested election for the swing vote on the court was recently awarded to the Republican incumbent.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi – who twice ordered Gov. Walker not to publish the law – declared the law void in late May, finding that Republican legislators violated the state’s Open Meetings Law to push the law through a joint committee of conference. It is now up to the high court to decide if it will take the case.
Walker claims the bill was written to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
The bill reduces many benefits that state employees have received for years; it requires them to contribute 50 percent to their pensions, which never before required an employee pay-in; it increases employee contributions for health insurance from a 6 percent statewide average to just over 12 percent; it strips them of collective bargaining rights; it prohibits employers from collecting union dues through paycheck deductions; and it requires annual votes to recertify union representation, among other things.
Republican lawmakers have said they would consider passing the law a second time as part of the 2011-2013 state budget if necessary.
Democratic lawmakers have said that other legal challenges can be expected if the state Supreme Court does not concur with Judge Sumi’s findings that it violated Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin said that “protest candidates” will run in the elections, in order to force a Democratic primary, postponing the general election by a month.
The protest or spoiler or phony candidates would run as Democrats in the July 12 elections, forcing a Democratic primary in those races, which would push the Republican recall elections back to August, giving the recalled officeholders more time to campaign.
Republican Party Executive Director Stephan Thompson explained it differently: “The public deserves time to learn about the differences between the candidates and about the Republican plan to control government spending and boost economic growth vs. the Democrat alternative of job-killing tax hikes,” he said.
The Democratic Party called it another “dirty trick.”
The six Republican state senators, calling for the Government Accountability Board “to desist and refrain from calling an election,” seek orders to stay the determination that the recall petitions are sufficient, and to stay the election schedule while the action is pending.
They are represented by Eric McLeod and Michael Screnock, with Michael Best & Friedrich, of Madison.