The deadline for this year’s crop of recall signature gathering was yesterday. Something close to 1.5 million signatures will be carted to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) on Tuesday.
And the fun begins again.
Because of a recent court ruling, the GAB will need far longer than its mandated 31-day limit to deal with the paperwork. A new software system and some 4 dozen extra employees will be needed to scan and verify the signatures, and the best guess for when recall elections may be held is late spring to early summer.
This favors the D’s, who can use the extra time to build name recognition and campaign war chests for their challenger candidates.
But pretty much everything else favors the R’s, which gets me wondering why the D’s decided to go through with it.
First, there is inertia. Last summer’s recall elections demonstrated that it’s basically impossible to unseat an incumbent who got at least 52% of the vote in the prior election. Of the four state senators likely to face a recall election this year, all surpassed that threshold. Even if the incumbent squeaked by in the last election, it’ll be tough (remember Alberta Darling barely won her 2008 state senate race but successfully fought off a strong recall challenger last summer). BTW, Walker won the governor’s race with 52.25% of the vote, putting him in the ‘inertia will out’ column.
Second, there’s money. Due to a quirk in the state’s campaign finance laws, those R’s facing possible recall have been able to raise unlimited amounts of cash from individuals since mid-November. Their D challengers, whomever they may be, can’t.
Third, there’s name recognition. The R incumbents have it. The challengers, especially those who enter the 4 state senate recall contests, may well not.
Fourth, the D’s have a depth-of-bench problem. They need a strong statewide candidate to told onto retiring Herbert Kohl’s US Senate seat. And a strong statewide candidate to unseat Gov. Walker. It’s not clear they’ve got one such person, let alone two. Current sentiment towards D’s from the Milwaukee and Madison areas isn’t high in other parts of the state and the D’s can’t win without rural/small city swing votes. Every article I read still wistfully mentions former US Senator Russ Feingold, even though he’s been consistent and adamant about not running. Now that signature gathering is over, voters will inevitably ask, “If not Walker/Kleefisch/Fitzgerald/Moulton/Wanggaard/Galloway, then who?” The longer the D’s wait to present their answer, the more it hurts them.
Fifth, it seems more strategically important in the short term for the WI D’s to retain Kohl’s US Senate seat and ensure Obama wins Wisconsin in November. Anything else is a distraction. The D’s then can focus on developing homegrown talent to unseat Walker and a few state senators in 2014.