Emotions Run High in First Days of Walker Recall
While politicians on both sides craft talking points, Wisconsin residents speak out on the reforms that have passed in Walker's first year in office.
For years, Tom Scheer has stood on the political sidelines, but all that changed this year after Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office and introduced controversial limitations to collective bargaining, a bill allowing the concealed carry of weapons and a voter identification bill.
Scheer was one of hundreds of people across the state who signed petitions to recall Walker Tuesday. He said Walker never talked about collective bargaining restrictions in his campaign, which to Scheer is representative of a larger silencing of the voice of people in Wisconsin.
"Virtually everything he's done when he's been in office has been something that was not talked about during his campaign, and what the people have wanted since he was elected has been totally irrelevant to him. His campaign was a fraud on the state of Wisconsin," said Scheer, a recently retired attorney living in Whitefish Bay.
Scheer also took issue with concealed carry legislation and the voter ID bill, which he said restricts voting access for low-income populations and students.
"Every time I turn around, I see a gross violation of representative democracy," he said.
Roughly 75 grassroot groups across the state hit the streets Tuesday, on the first of a 60-day effort to gather 540,000 signatures needed to force a recall election against Walker and Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. If the recall effort is successful, it will be the third recall against a governor in the nation's history.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has set up recall offices around the state, one of which is located on Green Bay Avenue in Glendale, where a slow but steady stream of people came through the door to sign the recall petition, sign up to volunteer and give money to the cause on Tuesday.
While volunteering at the Glendale recall office, Martha Pincus of Fox Point said she feels the concealed carry legislation, the voter ID bill and the collective bargaining restrictions are a "mean-spirited" move toward the extreme right wing.
"I don't think it's ethical to balance the budget on the backs of those that can least afford it, such as the disabled and the elderly," she said. "Do I want a recall? No. Do I think it's necessary? Yes. I don't think Wisconsin can afford to see what happens if he carries out the rest of his term."
At another office, at 7984 W. Appleton Ave., volunteer Doris Black of Milwaukee said the office has seen a flurry of activity.
"You can tell that people in the city, that people in the state are upset, and they want to see Scott Walker out," she said.
At the West Allis office, Mary Jo Randall of Wauwatosa signed the petition and said she plans to volunteer a few hours each week at the office and independently circulate petitions in her neighborhood.
Randall said she is most concerned about FamilyCare, which provides in-home care and services to the elderly. The program allowed her mother a “measure of independence” before she passed away because she could live at home and receive services such as meals and social worker visits.
Under Walker, the number of people eligible is capped, so people once receiving FamilyCare “end up in hospitals and nursing homes, which costs more for us.”
“What are we going to do with our elderly people who need just a little bit?” asked Randall.
Republican strongholds stand ground
Walker enjoyed a healthy majority of the vote when he was elected in 2010, especially in traditional Republican strongholds of Waukesha County.
And in that area he has plenty of supporters, including 39-year-old Paul Bellou of Sussex, who said he thinks a recall is unwarranted.
Bellou, who has been a member of the painters union for more than eight years, said the recall effort is a waste of money and believes that money should be spent on more important things.
"Everybody elected him for a reason and I don't understand why people are turning their back on him," he said.
Ed Kull, 69, of Hartland, said he doesn't vote down party lines and didn't vote in governor's race in 2010, but he supports Walker. He said the governor needs more time in office to be effective — just like President Barack Obama, whom Kull also supports.
"He's a good governor. We just gotta give him time," he said. "I don't want to see anybody lose their job, you know? You can't down a guy for trying to do a good job; it just takes time. Just like Obama, he got all the crap from the other presidents to take care of and it just takes time."
Sixty-year-old Nancy Farmer of Sussex also doesn't support Walker, but she thinks voters should live with the consequences of last year's election.
"He did what he said he was going to," she said. "You can't recall a man because he did what he said he was going to do."
Taking to the streets
While recall supporters signed petitions in recall offices, cafes and public events, some people have downloaded their own petitions to take up the effort independently.
"I can't think of a more important thing to do that to defend democracy," she said as she sat on a blue cooler and leaned on a table where clipboards held blank petition forms ready to be signed by passersby Tuesday morning.
"That is what this is. A right to vote, the importance of an educated citizenry is core central to how a democracy works," she said as she instructed the first signer on how to correctly fill out the petition form. "This is where the fight for democracy stands right now in the state of Wisconsin."
Patch's Carl Engelking, Rory Linnane, Jared Halverson, Brendan O'Brien and Marit Harm contributed to this report.