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Total Recall in Wisconsin

From NBC's Jason Seher
After Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s move to strip public employees’ collective-bargaining rights, the state finds itself in the middle of a historic and unprecedented wave of recall efforts.

Today, the Committee to Recall Robert Cowles submitted over 25,000 signatures -- more than the required 15,960 -- to the state’s Government Accountability Board, becoming the ninth recall drive of state senators the board is reviewing that could eventually trigger a recall election. Of the nine, six target Republican state senators like Cowles, and three target Democratic state senators.

They are:
-- Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay)
-- Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)
-- Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls)
-- Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac)
-- Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse)
-- Luther Olsen (R-Ripon)
-- Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay)
-- Jim Holperin (D-Conover)
-- Robert Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie)

So far, of the 16 state senators eligible for recall – they must be serving in office for at least one year – three recall campaigns failed to collect the required number of signatures. The failed three were aimed at Democratic state senators. 

Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said the board could rule on the two earliest petitions efforts – against GOP state senators Kapanke and Hopper -- as early as May 17. If there are enough valid signatures, that would trigger a recall election.

But Magney cautions that the board would most likely delay ordering an election until it rules on all the other petition efforts, which means the recall elections probably won’t take place until the fall.

“This is a historic effort and shows that Wisconsin is not taking Scott Walker sitting down,” Graeme Zilinski, communications for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said.

“It’s caused people to get really engaged and we think that’s fine,” said  Ryan Smith, chief of staff to GOP state Sen. Cowles. “And while Sen. Cowles looks forward to defending his record, no way did I think he’d have to this soon.”

Both Democrats and Republicans admit the recall efforts amount to a statewide referenda of Gov. Walker’s policies. But Republican insiders like Smith remain confident in the wake of this powerful democratic uprising. While liberals flocked to the polls in the state’s recent Supreme Court election -- which the conservative candidate appears to have won, though the margin was closer than would have been expected three months ago -- Smith said they would struggle to turn out that many voters again, especially in Republican strongholds.

Smith called the Democratic opposition “passionate” but predicted they would struggle to rally around candidates, because they are energized by the cause – not the name on the ballot.

An example of this kind of passionate voter is Suzanne Haines.

She got involved, collecting signatures to recall Cowles, after she drove down to Madison and saw the thousands of people rallying for union rights. Haines is not a union member, and claims to NBC News she’s “never even had so much as a sign” in her yard before now. But Haines feels that Walker wrongfully attacked collective bargaining, and that Cowles’ support for those measures means he needs to go.

Still, Haines said she has no idea what Democrat she would vote for in a special election. "I don't know names," Haines said. "I don't know who would run. But there is so much motivation right now in this community to get the government back and do what's right for people in this state; I think someone will step up and run."