Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wisconsin: Democrats announces plans for Gov. Walker recall

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has announced plans for an effort to recall Governor Scott Walker. The earliest petitions can be handed in is Jan. 3, 2012 (one year after Walker was sworn in). They would need over 540,000 signatures. There have only been two gubernatorial recall to ever get on the ballot (North Dakota's Lynn Frazier in 1921, California's Gray Davis in 2003), and both succeeded in removing the official.  One other recall, Arizona's Evan Meacham in 1988, did qualify for the ballot, but Meacham was impeached and convicted before the vote). A couple of basic points below:

Wisconsin's recall law is quite strict, and poses a much higher hurdle than California's did in 2003. Here's a link for some details.

There is still no decision on whether the recall of the Governor would also result in the removal of the Lieutenant Governor. New Jersey had the same question. As the second link notes, it is a strange legal issue.

One obvious question is whether there will be a positive impact from the fact that it is the Democratic Party itself that is backing the recall. As I've mentioned before, I believe there is a serious negative to having the recall tied to a specific interest group (like labor unions). But the same negative does not exist for recalls tied to a party.

The second question is whether a Walker recall may have a damaging impact on Obama's 2012 presidential prospects in the state. The question is timing:

There are three time periods when you can have the recall. One is as special election (which is anytime), the second is on the same day as a primary, and the third is on the same day as a general election.

The problem with a special election is that it costs a lot of money to hold (Gray Davis’ recall cost the state somewhere in the neighborhood of $66 million and that was without a primary vote). As I've mentioned beforeThe cost of the recall is generally not a great defense for a sitting official. Sometimes it works, but frequently it fails. However, if Walker survives, then the cost of the recall could become a great weapon for the Republicans in November. It plays directly into their overarching theme of profligate Democrats.

Holding a recall on primary day could be a disaster, as the Republicans have a presidential campaign that day, and the Democrats do not. 

A general election would fit right into a presidential race, and it would end up being almost a standard gubernatorial race, but one where the Democrats have a built-in voter advantage (the party has won the state in every presidential race since 1984). However, the Republicans are well aware of the negative consequences of holding a recall on Election Day. As this AP story notes (I spoke with the reporter, but my comments weren't included), you can be certain they would do everything in their power to prevent it. It is not too hard to do – look at the so-called fake Democratic primaries in the senatorial recalls. That pushed off the recall date by a month. It will be extremely difficult for the Democrats to time this recall properly.

1 comment:

  1. "Holding a recall on primary day could be a disaster, as the Republicans have a presidential campaign that day, and the Democrats do not."

    Walker being retained constitutes a "disaster"? Well, we know which side you're on, anyway...