Recall fever is gripping Wisconsin, with a crowd of several thousand people gathering in the capital, Madison, to demand a recall election for Gov. Scott Walker.
Walker, leading the charge for the state's newly elected Republican state house majority, in March signed into law a series of bills that drastically limited the influence of public unions, sparking massive protests of a size not seen since the Vietnam War. Among the provisions of the bills was the removal of union workers' right to collective bargaining.
Republican lawmakers insisted that the reforms, which included provisions for state workers to pay more for their pensions, were necessary to close a $137 million budget deficit. Unlike the Federal Government, states are required to have balanced budgets. At one point in March, Walker had threatened to lay off a large number of state employees.
Already, two state senators (both Republicans) have been recalled in special elections. The governor and his lieutenant-governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, are the next targets.
According to Democratic sources, the recall effort is well on its way to gaining the 540,208 signatures needed by January 15 to force a recall election.
Wisconsin Republicans made headlines around the country in February and March when the GOP-backed bills prompted 14 Democratic state senators to leave the state in protest. Their absence prevented the upper house from having a quorum, the minimum number of senators needed to have a vote on the bills. Eventually, after threats of fines and a promise to send state troopers after them, the absent senators returned and the senate passed the bills and the governor signed them.
The state senate now has 17 Republican members and 16 Democratic members.