The Democratic Party is organizing a recall against Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Tuesday marked the day volunteers could begin collecting the 540,000 valid signatures they need to trigger a recall election. As part of the "Political Lowe-down," FOX6's Mike Lowe traveled 600 miles across the state of Wisconsin, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the statewide recall efforts.
Almost from the moment Governor Walker announced his intention to end collective bargaining, and that he wouldn't negotiate with unions, those in support of organized labor were ready for a recall, but they had to wait one year after his election to start the recall effort. Tuesday, the day finally arrived, but the work began much earlier than Tuesday.
Democrats started training people on October 24th, and party strategists have opened up more than 20 offices statewide. A handful of paid staffers have spent a month alongside volunteers copying and stapling documents, making poster boards, and preparing clipboards - all tools that they hope will help them gather the 540,000 valid signatures they need for a recall election, in Democratic circles, it is assumed that about 400,000 of those signatures will come from Milwaukee and Madison, but Democrats say they want 600,000 signatures, to ensure enough are confirmed valid. To do this, they would have to get one out of five voters to sign.
In Madison, one office hosted several training sessions per day, teaching signature collectors how to fill out petitions properly. In Lacrosse, they lined up support through a phone campaign. Lacrosse was the battleground on which a successful senate recall was fought, and that contest gave Democrats a playbook to work off of for this effort.
"We learned what areas we need to hit a little harder. We need to do more educating for people, and that's what we do when we go door-to-door for the signatures - we also educate people on what the facts are," volunteer Sue Conrad said.
In Stevens Point, Democrats want to minimize the number of challenged signatures, so they're working hard to train signature collectors. They say a lot of people want to help, but don't necessarily have the experience as a political party to get signatures for candidates, so they're doing a lot of training.
In Appleton, the Democratic office used to be a tattoo parlor. Claire Knudsen was busy making calls and organizing the list of those who have already pledged to sign the recall petition - some 3,000 so far. Those individuals signed an online pledge saying they'd provide their support.
For the Democrats, it will be a 60-day free-for-all in every corner of the state, while Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Stephan Thompson says the party will mount an aggressive campaign to keep Walker in office, opening offices around the state in the coming days.
"We're doing a few things, one is setting back up our grassroots structure across the state. Typically we do that in March or April of an election year, this time ist's November of the year previously, but we're getting the ground game ready and telling folks, listen, it's working and recalling a governor less than a year into his first term is absurd," Thompson said.