Wis. Democrats file nearly 24,000 signatures to recall GOP Sen. Luther Olsen over union vote

  • Article by: JASON SMATHERS , Associated Press
  • Updated: April 18, 2011 - 12:32 PM

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Democrats delivered a petition Monday with enough signatures to recall a third Republican state senator who voted to strip most of public employees' collective bargaining rights.

Ann Schmidt, organizer for the committee to recall Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon, submitted about 24,000 signatures to the state Government Accountability Board. If the board finds at least 14,733 signatures are valid, officials would call a recall election six weeks from the date of certification.

The board has 31 days to review the signatures, but it will ask a court to extend the review period to accommodate extensions to challenges and petitions from other recall committees. No petitions have been filed against any Democratic senators so far.

Olsen was not initially seen as one of the more vulnerable Republicans. He ran unopposed in 2008 and lives in a Republican-leaning district. But Schmidt, 56, said Olsen's support of the collective bargaining bill pushed by Gov. Scott Walker was a "tipping point" for many residents.

"Yes, collective bargaining is the big issue, that's a huge issue," Schmidt said. "But giving tax breaks to the wealthy at the same time that you're breaking the backs of the middle class and the lower class, that's uncalled for. That's unjustified. That's not in the spirit of Wisconsin."

Walker signed the bill March 10, but it has been on hold while it's tied up in the courts.

Olsen could not be reached for comment, but previously defended his vote on the bill, saying most of it was good state policy.

"If I would have voted no for that bill, (the recalls) probably would have went away, but that was not the right decision," Olsen said. "I know that by voting yes, that would keep the recall effort going. It may have happened even if I had voted no to the bill."

Democrats also submitted signatures this month to recall Republican Sens. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac. Hopper's campaign manager Jeff Harvey said they'll challenge some signatures on the basis that they were collected based under false pretenses. Kapanke's campaign is challenging the entire petition, saying the organizers failed to properly register with election officials.

Five other Republicans and eight Democrats are also being targeted for recall for their opposition or support of the budget repair bill. However, time is running out for the recall groups. Most of the committees to recall senate Democrats have a week left to turn in signatures, while groups targeting the remaining five Republicans must turn in signatures by May 2.

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