GOP drive to recall Wisconsin Democrats fizzles

MADISON, Wis. - Republicans here have been able to file petitions to recall only three of eight Democratic state senators they are trying to unseat. And the petitions they have filed may end up being thrown out by election authorities who have been unable to verify that the GOP has submitted the required number of valid signatures.

The Republicans had less than the required number of valid signatures to recall four other senators they want to unseat, and then missed the deadline for filing valid signatures to recall them.

Republicans said they targeted the eight senators because the Democrats had fled the state to delay passage of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill destroying collective bargaining rights for public service workers.

Meanwhile, a broad coalition of trade union, community and Democratic Party activists filed more than 26,000 signatures by yesterday to recall a sixth Republican state senator - Robert Cowles of Green Bay - who voted for Walker's bill.

All the petitions to recall the six Republicans had well over the minimum number of required signatures. That number must equal 25 percent of the total vote for governor in November's election in each Senate district.

The 26,524 signatures submitted to recall Cowles were 166 percent of the required number in his district. A filing of 15,960 signatures is stipulated for that district under the 25-percent-of-the-gubernatorial-vote formula.

Earlier, pro-union activists filed recall petitions for Alberta Darling of River Hills, Shelia Harsdorf of River Falls, Luther Olsen of Ripon, Dan Karpanke of LaCrosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac.

If Democrats can win three of the six seats, they will wrest control of the Wisconsin Senate from the Republicans.

There is seemingly no end to the woes Republicans are facing as a result of Gov. Walker's right-wing budget bill.

The latest in the long list of problems it has caused came today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture saying Wisconsin would break a federal law if it hires a private contractor to decide who is and who is not eligible for food stamps. The Walker budget removes this function from county governments and turns it over to private firms. The federal government has warned Wisconsin that privatization of state food assistance programs could cost the state $20 million federal dollars each year.

Yesterday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called similar privatization efforts in Indiana and Texas "complete failures marked by technical difficulties, staffing shortages and inadequate training of private call-center staff resulting in adverse impacts on the state and its people."