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Timing Is Everything: Wisconsin Democrats Fret Over Strategy For Walker Recall

Timing is everything.

With the legislative recall campaigns designed to dispose of enough GOP senators to return the upper body of the Wisconsin legislature to Democratic control well underway, attention is now turning toward the future of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Certainly, should the senate recall efforts turn out well for the Democrats, the excitement will be there to continue the process and take a shot at sending Scott Walker back home to Milwaukee.

The question is when to begin that effort.

Wisconsin law requires that once a petition drive to recall an elected official begins, those engaged in the effort have just 60 days to collect enough signatures to equal 25% of the total number of votes cast in the prior gubernatorial election.

That is a tall order- which is why many Wisconsin Democrats believe that they should get the Walker recall petitioning campaign going just as soon as the senate elections are wrapped up and while passions remain high.

In a normal situation, I think these folks would be right.

The problem is that any electoral strategy of this nature must rely on the election laws of the state when contemplating moves that work to the favor of one political party or the other. Unfortunately, the application of the law in Wisconsin – thanks to one of the most bizarre State Supreme Courts one can imagine – is anything but reliable.

Because of this unusual state of legal affairs, as we will see in a moment, getting the petition drive going sooner rather than later could result in a very unfortunate ending for those who would like to see Governor Walker go away.

First, an explanation of how things are supposed to work in the state.

Under Wisconsin election rules, once the recall petitions are turned in, election officials have 31 days to issue a “certificate of sufficiency” or “certificate of insufficiency”. Assuming the petitions are deemed sufficient, the Wisconsin Constitution requires that an election be scheduled on the first Tuesday six weeks following the certification of the election.

While the law appears completely clear that the only exception to the six week period would be where the party attempting the recall requires a primary to determine who their candidate will be- in which case the primary would be held six weeks after certification with the actual recall election to take place four weeks after completion of the primary- Wisconsin, as noted, does not appear to always operate to the letter of the law.

Thus, the Democratic concern is that were their recall petitions to be delivered for certification by the end of this year, or early in 2012, the GOP would work to move the statutory date when the recall election should take place to the date of the statewide election already scheduled for just a few weeks later.

That election happens to be the Republican presidential primary which is scheduled for the first week in April.

Obviously, if you’re looking to turn out Republican voters to support Governor Walker, the day of the Republican presidential primary would be about as good as it gets.

How, you might ask, could the GOP succeed in delaying an election that should take place no later than, say, the middle of February (assuming the petitions are in by the end of this year), until April?

Assuming that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, a non- partisan organization that oversees Wisconsin elections, would set the date for a statewide recall election according to the Constitutional requirements, the Republicans would likely engage in any number of challenges for the purpose of delay, including a court action(s) based on the argument that it is not in the best interest of the state to hold an election in February when one is already scheduled for the first week of April. After all, having to pay for two statewide elections when both could be held within a few weeks of the statutory date seems an unnecessary waste of state monies that are in short supply.

Never mind that the early April election just happens to be the GOP presidential primary.

Where would such a court action eventually be decided?

In the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the astoundingly politicized body where the friends of Scott Walker maintain a narrow majority thanks, in no small part, to the now infamous Justice David Prosser.

Maybe the Court would follow the law – maybe they would not.

Thus, were the Democrats to proceed with the recall effort shortly after the conclusion of the senate recalls next month, they may well be placing the future of Scott Walker in the hands of the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the last place they would like the matter to be decided.

The other option would be to wait until after the GOP presidential primary and try to time the recall election to take place on November 6, 2012, the day of the national elections. The strategy would be to pick that day based on the expectation that many Wisconsin Democrats will turn up to cast their vote for President Obama.

Of course, it would be impossible to pull this off given the state GOP’s willingness to get involved with dirty tricks. Were the Democrats to time things contemplating no primary election to pick the Democratic candidate, we can count on the GOP to run a ‘fake’ Democrat, as they did in numerous senatorial recall elections, to force a primary to throw off the timing. Were the Democrats to anticipate a fake primary, and time the recall election for 10 weeks following certification rather than six, the GOP would, no doubt, stay away from such a primary, resulting in the recall election happening a month before the November general elections.

Clearly, the Wisconsin Democratic Party finds itself in a very tricky position and one created by the uncertainty that comes when the state’s top judicial body cannot be counted upon to simply follow the law as written.

And therein lies the moral to the story. When we can no longer trust our judiciary to rule with fairness and according to law, democracy suffers.

While I may hold a few opinions, I really don’t know when the Wisconsin Democrats should seek to hold the recall election.

What I do know is that the Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution, drafted in 1926 and amended in 1981, is explicit and completely clear on the subject of how recall elections are to be handled and that no provision is made to alter the prescribed date of a recall election taking into consideration any factors other than those set forth in the state Constitution.

For Wisconsin Republicans -and supporters of Governor Walker- who would seek the political benefits of holding the election to recall Scott Walker on the day of the Republican primary rather than the day prescribed by their Constitution, I hope these people will bear in mind the deeply troubling hypocrisy of holding themselves out as ardent supporters of the Constitution only to turn their back on their own founding document when it is politically expedient to do so.

Personally, I hope the Wisconsin Democrats proceed immediately with the effort to recall Governor Walker.

If the state’s highest court -and those who believe that the Constitution trumps all- are prepared to throw their own Constitution overboard to save their governor, let them pay the price of such lawlessness that will surely come due for them.

If a Constitutional crisis is what it will take for Wisconsin citizens to understand what is happening to their state, I would also encourage Wisconsin Democrats to bet on their Constitution and see if your opposition is willing to pay the price for the sake of political expediency.

Let’s find out if Wisconsin Republicans love Scott Walker more than they love and respect their own Constitution. Let’s find out if they are willing to completely disregard the state’s moral and legal center all for the purpose of rigging an election to give the Governor the best possible chance of succeeding.

If Wisconsin Republicans wish to support their governor by coming out on whatever the legal election date works out to be, that is a valid exercise of their rights as Wisconsin citizens. But they should be willing to do it in accordance with the law of the State.

 

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 20, 2011

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrats Must Fight Back Against Wisconsin GOP Shenanigans Or Risk Losing

A potential bombshell development out in Wisconsin.

As you know, Wisconsin Republicans have hatched a scheme to meddle in Dem primaries in order to delay the recall elecions against GOP state senators in a last ditch maneuver to save their hides.

Now a top labor group heavily involved in the recall wars is responding: It is publicly sounding the alarm about the GOP tactics, and arguing that Democrats must respond in kind or risk failing to take back the state senate.

We Are Wisconsin — which is one of the biggest labor-backed groups involved in the fight — has just issued a public statement stating that it would be in the interests of Democrats to respond to the GOP shenanigans by running their own candidates against Republicans in GOP primaries, just as Republicans are doing to Dems.

In a major development, the group argues that the strategic and on-the-ground implications of the GOP tactics are far more complex and serious a threat to Dem chances than has been publicly explained. They argue that if Republicans do this and Dems don’t, the GOP will be able to dictate the election calendar with a free hand, deciding which general recall elections happen on July 12th and which on August 9th — a huge strategic advantage for Republicans.

Without GOP primaries, the group argues, GOP state senators will automatically advance to the general recall elections, allowing Republican voters in their districts to vote for the fake, GOP-backed “Democratic” candidates in the Dem primaries, making it more likely that the real Dem loses the primary and doesn’t even advance to the recall election. (If there’s also a GOP primary, Republican voters won’t be able to vote in both primaries under Wisconsin law.) And without GOP primaries, all the unlimited outside national conservative money could be channeled into boosting the fake “Democrat” and annhilating the real Dem. The group concludes:

Given the situation Republicans have so despicably concocted to manipulate these recall elections, it is the opinion of We Are Wisconsin that it would be in the interest of Democrats to run candidates in the Republican primaries to ensure the dates of the general election are predictably on August 9th, and that Republicans are forced to win a primary election instead of diverting their unlimited resources to back their “fake” candidates against “legitimate” Democrats. To that end, it would be in the interest of flipping the Wisconsin Senate that interested Democrats contact the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

This opinion is not rendered lightly. This is the most cynical manipulation of the Wisconsin electoral process in our state’s history, and is being done by a Republican party that has demonstrated no respect for the rule of law and our state’s tradition of clean elections and good governance. Unfortunately, however, after evaluating the strategic implications of their despicable tactics, to simply stand idly by would amount to unilateral disarmament and would almost certainly thwart the will of the hundreds of thousands of voters who support recalling Republican Senators in the upcoming elections.

Democrats and liberals have repeatedly described the GOP tactic of meddling in Dem primaries as a dirty trick designed to rig the recalls, and conservatives are now likely to cry hypocrisy. But it’s clear that the situation created by the GOP maneuver is far more complex and potentially dire for Dems than previously understood, and without a Democratic response, Dems would in effect be consigning themselves to defeat by tying their own hands behind their backs while Republicans manipulate the law to their advantage.

The question now is whether Dems will hear this message and respond in kind.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, June 10, 2011

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Labor, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Republican National Committee Official Involved In Wisconsin GOP Shenanigans

As you know, Wisconsin Republicans have hatched a scheme to run spoiler candidates in Dem primaries in order to delay the recall elections and give Wisconsin GOP state senators more time to save their hides. This plan has been openly embraced by the state’s Senate Majority Leader.

But it turns out there’s an interesting Washington angle on this story, too: A current top RNC official may have played a key role in developing the plan when he was with the state GOP. And he’s refusing to answer questions from reporters about it.

When the La Crosse Tribune first broke the story earlier this month, the paper reported that one Mark Jefferson, then the executive director of the Wisconsin state GOP, had been recorded discussing the plan with local GOP officials. Jefferson had served in that position for four years, as the right hand man of the Wisconsin state chairman, Reince Priebus. Priebus, of course, is now the head of the Republican National Committee.

Even as the story about the Wisconsin GOP scheme was breaking, it was already known that Jefferson would be moving to the RNC to play the role of midwestern regional director, a significant position.

No one is saying that the RNC itself played an active role in developing the plan. But Jefferson himself has in the past denounced such schemes as highly unethical. Last year, when Republicans accused Dems of running a spoiler candidate in a GOP primary in an Assembly race, Jefferson slammed it as a “nasty, cynical ploy.”

Now that Wisconsin Republicans are the ones accused of this, Jefferson has not responded to repeated requests from reporters that he defend the plan or explain his role in developing it.

This goes beyond just the role of Jefferson. There are currently mounting questions about the scope, nature and real goals of this scheme — we have now learned, for instance, that all six GOP state senators targeted for recall knew about this plan, even though they earlier claimed ignorance. Jefferson could clear up a lot about what’s really going on here. He may not see any reason to do that, of course. But Wisconsin reporters are going to continue demanding that he do.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, June 9, 2011

June 9, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On (and On and On) Wisconsin, As Judge Stays New Union Law

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, including Gov. Scott Walker, have yet another decision to make in the wake of a state trial judge’s ruling Friday that temporarily blocked enforcement of Wisconsin’s controversial new public union law. And none of their paths are certain to bring them back to where they want to be.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi created the headache for Walker and company when she ruled that Wisconsin’s “open meetings” law required more public notice of a legislative vote than was given by Republican lawmakers on the evening of March 9th. That was the night GOP lawmakers took their surprise vote, in the absence of their still-in-hiding Democratic counterparts, and passed the divisive measure which undercuts collective bargaining rights in the state.

Gov. Walker subsequently signed the law and it was scheduled to be published — a requirement for implementation — on March 25th. But because the measure was enacted in violation of the 30-year-old transparency law, Judge Sumi ruled, it could not yet go into effect. The Wisconsin State Journal quoted her as saying: “This was something that would and did catch the public unaware… what ended up being a closed session of a body in propelling legislation forward.”

Her procedural decision had nothing to do with the legal or political merits of the fight over collective bargaining rights. But it will likely affect those merits anyway, in whole or in part. Here’s part of what the state statute says about how other state statutes are to be lawfully enacted:

“Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.”

After a brief hearing on the matter, Judge Sumi said Friday in court: “It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting  law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (law).”

So the GOP in Wisconsin now has a few options. The GOP can go back to the start of the legislative process and seek to enact the measure in more traditional circumstances. This could mean more Democratic walkouts. It could mean more protests at the State House in Madison. It could mean some sort of political compromise. Or it could mean the passage of an exact but newer version of the new collective bargaining law. And there’s no point in betting on which option is more likely because no reasonable person would lay odds on any of it given Wisconsin’s recent political history.

The GOP can slug it out in court and hope that a majority of the justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have a different view of the open meetings law (and what happened on March 9th) than did Judge Sumi. The problem with that option is that it requires the state’s appellate judiciary to undercut the open meetings law not just in these circumstances — which everyone concedes were unusual — but in more conventional scenarios as well. No one (yet) is claiming the law itself is unconstitutional or otherwise beyond the power of state legislators. The state supreme court could require a do-over at the Statehouse while promising its ruling has nothing to do with the politics of the law.

Or, the GOP can pursue both paths at the same time and hope for success in either one. The problem with that scenario is that it would require politicians to spend more time and energy in pitched legislative battle over an issue — new collective-bargaining legislation, properly noticed — which may subsequently be rendered moot by an appellate ruling that recognizes the legitimacy of the existing collective-bargaining law. I suspect few politicians in Wisconsin would want to go through the ordeal again even if they were assured that it would mean something in the end. But to ask them to do so when the existing law may ultimately be revived may be a bit much.

There are other lawsuits pending against the legislation. Judge Sumi herself is involved in another one of those. What emerged from political chaos looks now to be heading toward a period of legal chaos.

By: Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, March 18, 2011

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States, Unions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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