MADISON, Wis. - Historic recall elections got the go-ahead from state officials here today when the Government Accountability Board verified the signatures requiring those elections.
"Today is another historic day in democracy for the state of Wisconsin," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. "The GAB has certified nearly one million signatures to recall Gov. Walker, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch and four anti-worker State Senators. The lies and spin of fraud and fake signatures were proved to be propaganda from Gov. Walker's campaign."
"Despite the out-of-state dollars that are flooding into Gov. Walker's coffers in an attempt to silence the voices of working people, Wisconsinites will be heard and will reclaim Wisconsin this June," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.
Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, is so far the only declared Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in the state's special recall election set for June 5.
"They're (Gov. Walker and the Republicans) trying to destroy us and defund us," said Mitchell about his fellow firefighters. "They said we had a $3.6 billion budget deficit, that our state is broke, and we need 'shared sacrifice.'
"But they give two years of tax exemptions" to corporations while cutting $1 billion from the schools, he added. "This is an attack on the middle class and on our way of life. Shared sacrifice? We sacrifice and they share the gains."
Mitchell became popular among workers when right wing Governor Scott Walker tried to "divide and conquer" the labor movement in the state in 2011 by exempting police and Fire Fighters from his law killing collective bargaining rights for 200,000 state and local workers.
"They came to us and said, 'You can sit this one out.' We didn't just say, 'No,' we said, 'Hell, No!'" Mitchell declared. He led Wisconsin Fire Fighters into the mass protests that surrounded and occupied the state capitol building for months and became a public face for all the public workers trashed by Walker's law.
It was that law that led to the massive labor-supported recall drive, more than a million signatures turned in - and the special election this June. State Democrats must find a gubernatorial nominee to oppose Walker. Mitchell appears to be the only Democrat taking on GOP Lieut. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is also being recalled.
Four GOP state senators are also up for the recall, in addition to the two Republicans ousted last year after they helped pass Walker's law. One of the latest group of four has quit already before the election, turning the state senate into a body tied 16 to 16.
Mahlon says he is not taking anything for granted in the recall.
Talking about the right-wing Republican business agenda he said, "We have some educating to do," and noted that 40 percent of Wisconsin union members backed Walker when he first ran for election. In addition, he warns, "The governor has raised $12 million from rich right wing donors since the start of 2011."
Photo: Mahlon Mitchell, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, hopes to go from the firehouse to the state house in the June 5 recall elections. Mahlon Mitchell flickr.