MADISON -- A day after Democrats and recall organizers dropped off more than one million signatures to force a recall election against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the state's prominent Democrats are lining up to take him on.
Even though the signatures have been filed with the Government Accountability Board, no election has yet been authorized, but because the number of signatures collected was so high, the assumption is that there will be an election, and Democrats will more than likely hold a primary. "I've said publicly that I would not be the least bit surprised if there were a Democratic primary for governor," Mike Tate with the Wisconsin Democratic Party said.
Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is lining up union support, and announced her intentions to run in a potential recall election on the web Wednesday morning. "Hope has inspired the people of this movement, and the movement has inspired me. That's why I have decided to run for governor and will be making a formal announcement soon," Falk said Wednesday.
State Senator Tim Cullen is also going to run, and says he'll make a formal announcement within the next three weeks. "I'll make the case based on my background and experience that I'm the best person to oppose Governor Walker in the recall," Cullen said.
During the bitter budget battle, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, who is a former congressman, emerged as the face of Democratic opposition to Walker's agenda. Barca says he is mulling a bid. "It's too important of a decision to make a hasty move. It's something I'll be analyzing over the next week or two," Barca said.
Other possible candidates include State Firefighters Union President Mahlon Mitchell, who is considering running for governor or lieutenant governor, outspoken State Senator John Erpenbach, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010 by a 52 to 48 percent margin. Barrett says he's focused on mayoral re-election, but sources say he wants to take on Walker again. "Everybody's going to be wondering what's going on, and again, I don't know what the final answer is," Barrett said.
Retiring U.S. Senator Herb Kohl has a history of attracting Republicans and Democrats, has the money, the name recognition and the business background, but says he has no plans to campaign. "I'm serving as a U.S. Senator. I have another year in my term, and I have enjoyed serving the people of Wisconsin. I have no plans to run for governor," Kohl said.
Walker has already launched a TV campaign to make the argument that his reforms are working. Walker maintains his focus during the recall process has been on improving Wisconsin's economy and employment outlook. "No matter who might be an opponent in the recall, we are going to focus on those same things," Walker said.
State Senator Kathleen Vinehout also tells FOX6 she is looking into running, and two other high-profile names have been mentioned: LaCrosse Congressman Ron Kind, and former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. Feingold is the only one who has said no, unequivocally.
Some have called the one million recall signatures historic. UW-Milwaukee Professor of Government Affairs Mordecai Lee isn't saying he likes the recall effort against Governor Walker. In fact, he's said for months he was skeptical, but when he heard the news of one million signatures being turned in, he says he was impressed by the number. "The overt action of a million people signing, it seems whether one is a Democrat or Republican, one has to recognize what an incredible accomplishment it is," Lee said.
Wisconsin has never seen a statewide recall, so we have to look to other states to compare. Just last year in Ohio, about 1.3 million signatures were gathered to try to repeal similar anti-union legislation. That was about 32 percent of Ohio's total electorate.
In 2003, around 1.6 million signatures were gathered in a recall effort against Governor Gray Davis, and that was about 23 percent of that state's electorate.
In Wisconsin, the one million signatures just turned in Tuesday makes up a much greater 46 percent of the Badger state's electorate. "A million signatures in California, or even a million signatures in Ohio is not as impressive as a million signatures in Wisconsin, because we're a much smaller population state," Lee said.
In Ohio and California, the referendum and recall were ultimately successful, when it came to a statewide election. Lee points out, there very well could be a million people in Wisconsin who would sign a petition in favor of Governor Walker, and it looks like both sides will end up having a say. "I think there's no doubt there's going to be a recall election for governor," Lee said.