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Deadline Day Arrives For Wisconsin Recall Petitions

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Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will deliver a truckload of petitions to the state's elections board Tuesday in an effort to force a recall election. Thousands of volunteers have spent the past two months canvassing the state collecting signatures.

Organizers are confident Walker will need to face an election this year in order to keep his job. Talk of recalling the governor began nearly a year ago, after he signed a bill into law that strips most public unions of collective bargaining rights.

Tens of thousands of people voiced their anger during massive protests at the state Capitol, along with 14 Democratic senators who fled the state for three weeks to delay a vote.

But last Friday night the mood was festive as dozens of people arrived for a celebration at a tiny recall office on Milwaukee's North Side. Last-minute signers showed up as the final hours of the petition drive ticked away.

Alex McMurtry, 18, signed his name and says he can't wait to vote in a recall election.

"You got to send a message that it's unacceptable and you have to listen to the voters of Wisconsin," he adds.

McMurtry, who is still in high school, says besides the collective bargaining changes, he's upset about the governor's cuts to education, which were made to help erase a budget deficit.

Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate says he was able to recruit 25,000 volunteers to circulate recall petitions, and he is all but certain he'll surpass the threshold of 500,000 valid signatures needed for a recall.

"We've seen an absolute departure from Wisconsin values," Tate says. "There are hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites that took the time to sign this petition because this is how they're exercising their voice."

But it remains to be seen whether the massive effort will parlay into votes against Walker if there's a recall election.

Republicans say they're ready for a fight.

Keith Best works at the GOP's office in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb that Walker carried in 2010.

"Gov. Walker has campaigned and done what he said he was going to do," Best says. "He saved the state fiscally. You look at where some of the other states are. Illinois, for example, they had to raise their taxes. Their budget deficit has grown to $13 billion. Wisconsin's is gone."

Best and thousands of volunteers across the state will spend the next few months staffing phone banks and putting up yard signs in support of the governor.

"If Scott Walker wins, it's a reassurance to the Republican right that they have strong legs they can stand on in November," says Don Kettl, dean of the school of public policy at the University of Maryland. "If Scott Walker is beaten, it will be a real warning to the Republicans about the dangers of drifting too far to the right."

Meanwhile, the governor continues to take advantage of a state law that allows recall targets to raise unlimited amounts of money during a recall period. And, he's flooding the airwaves with television ads touting his accomplishments.

Copyright 2012 Milwaukee Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wuwm.com/.

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