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Board certifies signatures for Wis. recall election

The Government Accountability Board cleared the way for a recall election against Walker, certifying 900,939 recall petition signatures. The board also certified recall petitions for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.

A Democratic primary will be held May 8, if needed, followed by a general election June 5.

Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said the campaign had anticipated a recall election would move ahead.

“Now it is time for voters to examine the choice they will be faced with in June,” she said in a statement. “We believe a majority of Wisconsin voters will stand with Gov. Walker’s record of laying the foundation for a more successful Wisconsin while moving the state forward and against the Democrats’ failed policies that would take Wisconsin back to the days of a $3.6 billion budget deficit.”

Walker said Thursday that he looked forward to making his argument for keeping his job during the recall campaign.

“It gives us a great opportunity to tell our story, to tell that we’re turning things around, how we’re heading in the right direction, how we’re moving Wisconsin forward,” Walker said. “But we’ve got a lot more to do.”

Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said in his statement, “This was the greatest petition campaign in American history for a reason — Scott Walker’s radical overreach and abuse of power.”

Though Friday’s action made the recall election official, “Recall Walker” T-shirts, signs and bumper stickers have been commonplace in Wisconsin for more than a year.

Last year, as Wisconsin faced a budget shortfall, Walker pushed and enacted legislation that forced most public workers to pay more for their health insurance and retirement while stripping workers of most collective bargaining powers. The moves drew a firestorm of large Capitol protests.

Walker argued the changes were needed to help balance the state’s budget, while Democrats and other opponents said the true intention was to weaken the power of unions, which have traditionally opposed Republicans.

Formal recall efforts launched against Walker in November, and signature drives occurred in parking lots and on sidewalks across the state.

In January, organizers of the effort submitted signatures to the state, and the Government Accountability Board began the massive job of reviewing the signatures. Friday’s vote completed the process.

“Today is another historic day in democracy for the state of Wisconsin,” Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the state AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “The GAB has certified nearly 1 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.”

Ben Sparks, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said the party “looks forward to the opportunity of comparing the Republicans’ record of fiscal responsibility and job growth to the lengthy record of job killing tax hikes supported by the Democratic candidates.”

Walker has a narrow lead over declared and potential challengers in the recall election, according to a Marquette University poll released Tuesday. That poll had Walker leading undeclared candidate Tom Barrett, Milwaukee’s mayor, by 47%-45%.

Barrett, whom Walker defeated in 2010, has said he’ll make a decision whether to enter the race by Tuesday.

Joe Heim, a professor of political science, at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said he expects the election to be very close.

“Because I think so many people have made up their minds,” he said, “it’s a matter of getting out the vote, and I think both sides are going to do a pretty good job of getting the vote out.”

Recall elections against governors are rare. If Walker is recalled, he’ll be only the third governor in U.S history. Voters recalled California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, and in 1921, North Dakota voters recalled Gov. Lynn Frazier.

Jones reports for The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis. Contributing: The Associated Press

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