Melania Trump Club

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wisconsin holds recall more than a year in making

After a more than a year and a half of political turmoil, Wisconsinites have their chance today to vote in a historic recall election. By the end of the day, the state should know if Governor Scott Walker will be allowed to finish his term in office, or if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will replace him.

It started in February of last year, when Governor Walker introduced a budget adjustment bill that included rolling back collective bargaining for most public employees. Walker argued the change was needed to help government deal with a growing state budget deficit and to give local governments the tools they need to cut costs without having to make massive layoffs. Opponents argued it was nothing more than a power grab and an attack on Walker’s political enemies.

The divisive proposal sparked an overwhelming response from unions and their supporters, as thousands of people flooded Madison and the Capitol building with nearly a month of non-stop protests. Senate Democrats left the state to prevent passage of the bill, while Republicans eventually used a procedural move to push through a vote on just the collective bargaining changes.

The controversy spilled over into a Supreme Court race and resulted in nine state senators facing recalls last summer. Of those, two Republican lawmakers lost their seats.

Walker faces a rematch with Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom he beat in 2010 by 5 percentage points, as he tries to become the first U.S. governor to successfully fend off a recall.

"I've been villainized for a year and a half. We've faced a year and a half of assaults on us. My opponent has no plans other than to attack us," Walker said at a campaign stop Monday, claiming that his agenda has put the state on the right economic track.

Responded Barrett, "Gov. Walker has divided the state, but we will never allow him to conquer the middle class. This started out as a grassroots movement and it's going to end as one."

Walker and his wife, Tonette, were among those waiting in line to vote in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa as polls opened at 7 a.m. His Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett cast his vote at the Milwaukee French Immersion school.

State elections officials have predicted that 60 percent to 65 percent of eligible voters will turn out. Government Accountability Board statistics show that 49.7 percent turned out for the 2010 Walker-Barrett race.

William Van Wagner, a 21-year-old student in Madison, waited in a line of about 30 people to cast his ballot for Walker.

"It's pretty clear that his policies have worked for us," Van Wagner said.

John Ipsen, 63, a mechanical engineer from Madison, said he opposed everything that Walker has done and that the rare recall — never before used against a Wisconsin governor — was clearly necessary.

"It's obviously not done very often so there's a good reason for it," Ipsen said after casting his vote for Barrett, whom he also supported in 2010.

The recall effort against Walker began bubbling last year, shortly after the former Milwaukee County executive successfully pushed through his union rights proposal, which also requires most state workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.

Walker said that's what was needed to balance the state's budget. But Democrats and labor leaders saw it as a political tactic designed to gut the power of his political opposition. They rallied by the tens of thousands at the state Capitol in protest, but could not stop Republicans who control the state legislature from approving Walker's plans.

It didn't take long for opponents to begin calling for a recall.

The recall petition drive couldn't officially start until November, months after Walker's triumph at the legislature, because Wisconsin law requires that someone must be in office for at least a year before facing a recall. Organizers hit the streets a week before Thanksgiving and spent two months gathering more than 900,000 signatures — about 360,000 more than were needed to trigger the election. Barrett was chosen as Walker's opponent in a primary last month.

Now, Walker stands in unique company: He is only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall vote. The other two lost, most recently California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

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