MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin conservatives on Thursday added three Democratic state senators to the list of lawmakers in line for recall elections over their opposition to or support of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's law curtailing collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Committees to recall Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover and Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie filed the signatures needed with the Government Accountability Board. All three groups had thousands more signatures than required to trigger a recall election.
The three Democrats join four GOP senators who have had recall petitions filed against them. Petitions still are being circulated against five other Democrats and four other Republicans. The senators are being targeted for backing or opposing a bill that would strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights. A judge weighing a lawsuit challenging the law has blocked it from taking effect, but told legislators the lawsuit would be moot if they voted again and passed the measure.
Democrats, who control 14 Senate seats, would have to take three of the Republicans' 19 seats to hold a majority.
Dan Hunt, an organizer for the group seeking Wirch's ouster, said the recall effort was motivated by the Democratic senators' decision to leave the state for weeks in an effort to block a vote on the collective bargaining bill.
"I think the vast majority of (Wirch's) constituents felt unrepresented when he left Madison, so that made our effort, again, something that could happen," Hunt said.
Neither he nor Kim Simac, an organizer of the Holperin recall effort, would rule out running in a recall election, but both said they wanted to see how the situation developed.
The Government Accountability Board has 31 days to review the signatures, but will ask a court for an extension to handle the large volume of recall reviews and any possible challenges to the signatures.
Mike Tate, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said the party would challenge the signatures on the conservatives' petitions.
"Until we get a chance to look at the sheets, which are being turned in today, we don't know," Tate said. "But I guarantee to the reporters on this call, there will be fraudulent signatures turned in."
Holperin and Hansen said they expect recall elections will happen. Hansen said he is more focused on crafting the two-year state budget.
"Some people were looking for a reason to take us on, and they've found it," Hansen said. "It's their right, it's democracy in action. Ultimately, the people in the 30th district and the people in those other districts will decide who they want to represent them until 2012."
Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke, of La Crosse, has already challenged signatures recalling him on the grounds that the group improperly filed registration statements with election officials. The campaign manager for Sen. Randy Hopper, of Fond du Lac, has said Hopper will challenge the signatures as well, claiming they were collected under false pretenses. Sens. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Luther Olsen of Ripon have said they will review the signatures.
The senators have 10 days after the filings in which to challenge the signatures.
Those behind an effort to recall Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, said they expect to file the necessary signatures with the state later Thursday.