April 1, 2011- La Crosse area Democrats say they will file petitions today with enough signatures to trigger a recall election of Sen. Dan Kapanke, one of eight Senate Republicans targeted over votes to curtail collective bargaining rights for public workers. If approved, it would be just the fifth recall election of a Wisconsin legislator.
Recall organizer Pat Scheller said volunteers have gathered more than the 15,588 signatures needed and that they plan to take them to Madison after a noon rally today at La Crosse City Hall.
It is expected to be the first completed of 19 active recall efforts registered between Feb. 24 and March 2 against 16 senators.
Kapanke did not return messages Thursday, but has said the recall is “part of the process.”
“I love campaigns. I just didn’t think I’d do one every year,” Kapanke said Saturday at the opening of a La Crosse County GOP headquarters.
He has defended his vote for the bill, which stripped most collective bargaining rights from state, municipal and school workers, as a necessary step in balancing the state’s budget while minimizing layoffs.
The filing comes just before the halfway point in the 60-day window the recall committee had to gather signatures in the district.
The state Democratic Party provided infrastructure support but “not a single paid canvasser was needed to trigger the recall versus Dan Kapanke,” said party spokesman Graeme Zielinski, who credited volunteers for collecting more than 20,000 signatures in less than 30 days.
“It took on a life of its own,” said Scheller, who filed the original paperwork to launch the recall effort.
Scheller, a banker who describes himself as a “middle of the road” guy who isn’t a member of the party, said Kapanke “is a decent person, but I think he showed a lack of fortitude in supporting the bill without questioning any of it.”
Eight Democrats who fled to Illinois for several weeks in an effort to prevent Senate Republicans from passing the bill are also targeted for recall — some by more than one committee. The other six senate Democrats, including Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, are not eligible for recall until 2012.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim said he was surprised by the speed with which the signatures were collected but cautions that it doesn’t mean Kapanke will lose his seat.
“I don’t think it automatically determines the outcome of the election,” he said. “There’s a certain intensity of the people favoring the recall. … Whether or not that intensity stays through is another question.”
There have been just four recall elections of Wisconsin legislators, according to the Government Accountability Board; only two were successful.