MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The clock is ticking for opponents of Republican Gov. Scott Walker hoping to force a recall election next year spurred by anger over his proposal effectively ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
The petition drive to collect more than 540,000 signatures began in the early morning hours Tuesday, with more than 100 events planned across the state to gather them all. Opponents of the Republican governor must collect 9,000 signatures a day to meet the target.
Walker recall organizers hope to tap ongoing anger over the collective bargaining law and build on momentum from last week's vote rejecting a similar law in Ohio. Wisconsin doesn't allow for a referendum challenging its law to be put on the ballot, so opponents targeted Walker and the three state senators.
Efforts to recall at least three Republican state senators were also expected to be launched Tuesday.
Walker said Monday he was trying not to get distracted by the recall and would remain focused on his 2010 campaign pledge to grow jobs in the state by 250,000 before the four-year term he was elected to serve is over.
He defended his record and said voters were ready to move forward and didn't want to get stuck in an endless campaign cycle.
"We've made a lot of progress," Walker said. "It's a new day in Wisconsin."
He launched his first television ad of the campaign, defending his record while the words "Recall: No" appeared on the screen. The ad was running statewide, except in Milwaukee, according to Walker's campaign manager Keith Gilkes.
Walker said in an interview that he planned a series of ads with people talking about how his initiatives are working in their communities as well as he plans for the future.
"We really believe people want to hear about where we're headed," Walker said. "I think it's important for people to hear my positive vision."
Republicans currently hold a narrow one-seat majority in the state Senate after two GOP incumbents were ousted in recall elections this summer.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Monday he expected to be targeted for recall in addition to three of his colleagues who defeated Democratic incumbents last year. Democrats said they planned to start recalls against Sens. Van Wanggaard of Racine, Pam Galloway of Wausau and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls.
Governors have been recalled from office only twice in U.S. history, in North Dakota in 1921 and in California when voters removed Gov. Gray Davis from office in 2003.
"Any recall attempts filed will be nothing more than a shameless power grab by the Democrats and their liberal special interests, and will not deter Republicans from moving the state forward under responsible leadership," Republican Party spokeswoman Nicole Larson said Monday.
Democrats do not yet have an announced candidate to take on Walker should enough signatures be collected to force an election. The earliest such an election could occur, without any expected delays in verifying the signatures or legal challenges, is March 27. Most expect any election would be later in the spring or in the summer.