The movement to recall Republican Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) has doubled in size since the Legislature approved a bill that would eliminate the bulk of collective bargaining rights from teachers and other public employees.
Kristopher Rowe, the organizer of the recall campaign, said the canvassing effort kicked off , mostly in Shorewood and Whitefish Bay. Volunteers can also be seen on Silver Spring Drive and other visible locations in Darling's 8th Senate District.
In the lead-up to the second weekend of canvassing, Rowe said there will be a bit of a drop-off in canvassing on Saturday, as many volunteers are attending a large protest in Madison where missing Democratic Senators are expected to address the crowd. On Sunday, Rowe said he expects the local recall effort to swell to its largest yet, with more than 500 volunteers on that day alone.
He said he has “well over 1,000” volunteers in his database of volunteers.
“We had a really strong showing of support this past weekend when we thought the bill might pass. But with the actions of the Senate, then the Assembly and with actions today, it basically solidified our base,” he said. "Those that were more independent, moderate people that hoped the bill wouldn’t pass are joining us. People that might have been a little shy about going to collect signatures aren't so shy anymore. They want to see (a recall), and they want to see it happen right away.”
Rowe said volunteers have “several thousand” signatures, but like the organizers of other similar recall movements, would not list the specific number of signatures on their recall petitions.
, Darling said national unions are behind the effort to frame the debate in Wisconsin as a Republican attempt to bust up unions and tear down the middle class. Darling said unions are spending big dollars on paid canvassers, direct mailings and advertising to shape the debate and spur recalls. In the end, Darling said their effort is more about flipping control of the Senate to the Democrats.
“Unfortunately, this has become less about my record and what I’m doing,” she said at the time. “It’s become a national union initiative to take out the Republican senators who have been working for fiscal accountability.”
Rowe said labor organizations have not committed any money to the recall effort, but the group does work with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which helps the group find Democratic households to canvass.
“Nobody’s getting paid to knock on doors and collect signatures,” he said.
Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told NewsRadio 620 that Rowe himself was tied to President Barack Obama’s administration.
Rowe said he volunteered for door-to-door canvassing operations in Obama’s campaign, but the Shorewood respiratory therapist said he has no connection to Obama or the Democratic Party.
“This last week with comments from Senators Darling and Fitzgerald has been upsetting not only for me but for my supporters,” he said. “We have more than 1,000 volunteers willing to spend their weekend gathering signatures because it means so much to them on a personal level."
The group is also raising money to purchase supplies, feed volunteers and rent an office space on Capitol Drive in Shorewood. The group raised $6,000 in the form of “several hundred donations” in the first 48 hours of fundraising, Rowe said, and he said the group hasn’t received any money from MoveOn.org or political action committees.
Darling, whose district includes Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, River Hills, Mequon, Thiensville, Menomonee Falls and Germantown, said the collective bargaining process has tied state and local governments into fiscally burdensome agreements. She has said the budget repair bill, in conjunction with his proposed budget, would get the state back on track fiscally and would balance a $3.6 billion state budget deficit.
Those behind the recall effort need to collect more than 20,000 signatures by May 2 to force an election.
Darling could face Democrat . Wasserman lost to Darling by about 1,000 votes, or about 1 percent of the votes cast, in 2008.