As Budget Battle Heats Up, Effort Launched to Recall Darling
More than 100 show up at organizational meeting to talk about removing GOP state senator.
Kristopher Rowe, the leader of an effort to recall state Sen. Alberta Darling said he was stunned at the turnout organizational meeting on Saturday.
“We expected maybe 40 people and got 140,” said Rowe of the meeting held in the Shorewood Public Library. “The only advertising we had was our Facebook page.”
It may not be the Jasmine Revolution that used Facebook to bring down the government in Tunisia, but Rowe’s group has grown almost overnight with more than 1,700 people saying they “liked” the cause.
Rowe acknowledged that’s a far cry from what they will need to recall the Republican lawmaker, who was was elected to the Assembly in 1990, the Senate in 1992 and has been re-elected ever since.
David Buerger, of the state Governmental Accountability Board, said a recall petition must contain a number of signatures equivalent to 25 percent of the votes cast in a district during the last gubernatorial election. In Darling's 8th Senate District that will mean that at least 20,343 signatures must be collected, Buerger said.
“Our goal is to get between 25,000 and 28,000,” Rowe said.
The movement is proceeding deliberately because past efforts have shown that those that are rushed are more likely to fail, he said.
“We want to make sure we have our infrastructure in place before we kick off the recall,” he said. “I expect we will be ready by the end of the week.”
Darling, whose district includes Menomonee Falls, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Fox Point, could not be reached for comment Monday on the recall effort.
Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip union workers of most of their collective bargaining rights were a key motivator, Rowe said, but not the only one.
“My father is a union worker, but I am not,” said Rowe, a respiratory therapist. “What he’s doing is an attack on everybody.”
Walker’s budget repair bill contains other provisions that Rowe called dangerous. One emergency measure gives the Walker administration the right to make changes to the Medicaid program administered by the state without public hearings or currently required legislative approval.
Another controversial amendment would allow him to ignore competitive bidding and sell state power plants – some fear to the Koch brothers, major contributors to his campaign.
Darling is being targeted because she chairwoman of the Joint Finance Committee, the powerful legislative committee that considered the governor’s bill before it went to the Assembly.
She also is being targeted because her district is more moderate than those of many Republican legislators.
Keith Schmitz, a leader in the liberal political group Grassroots North Shore, said Darling’s sprawling district has swung to the Democrats beginning with the presidential election of 2004. Only tiny River Hills voted for Walker last year’s gubernatorial election, he noted.
Still, a recall effort is daunting.
“It’s like going to the top of the Empire State building by stairs,” Schmitz said.
The recall effort comes less than two weeks after hundreds of protesters staged a March in Menomonee Falls that included a stop at Darling's office.
Darling faced her most significant challenge in 2008 from Democrat Sheldon Wasserman. Wasserman lost by about 1,000 votes or about 1 percent of the votes cast.
Wasserman, a Milwaukee obstetrician, said Monday he would consider running against Darling in a recall election. However, he voiced concerns that the GOP-controlled Legislature could redraw the 8th District boundaries to help protect Darling.
Rowe said his group is aware of need to gain the support of even the more conservative parts of the district.
“We’ve gotten support from all over the district, including Richfield,” Rowe said. “We’ve attracted a diverse group, including high school kids and a woman who was in her 80s.”
Still, Rowe said he would rather not go through with a recall and Darling could stop the effort to take away collective bargaining rights its tracks.
“All she’d have to do is call us today and say, ‘Let’s talk,’ ” said Rowe. “All she’d need to do is say she’s willing to sit down and work out a compromise.
“I just don’t see that happening,” he continued. “She hasn’t returned calls or e-mails or snail mail."