MADISON — Another delay could be on the horizon for Wisconsin’s latest wave of recall elections, and a new candidate is looking to challenge Gov. Scott Walker as a Republican — a move that would force a GOP primary.
State election officials say they probably will need more time to finish reviewing signatures on recall petitions, and on Monday wrote a letter to lawmakers asking for $404,500 to help cover the costs related to as many as six recall elections.
Democrats and other recall organizers reported turning in about 1.9 million signatures against Gov. Scott Walker and five other Republican lawmakers last month. The Government Accountability Board has until March 19 to complete its review and determine whether there are enough valid signatures to trigger the recalls.
But Kevin Kennedy, the GAB’s director and general counsel, said in his Monday letter to GOP lawmakers who lead the Legislature’s finance committee that the board anticipates it will need to ask a judge for a deadline extension.
“The agency anticipates requesting additional time in order to complete the duplicate signature analysis and to ensure if recall elections are ordered, the recall election events are consolidated and do not conflict with existing election events or holidays,” Kennedy wrote.
Walker’s campaign applauded the move.
“The GAB should take as much time as they believe to be necessary to complete a full review of all signatures and to follow the ruling by Judge Davis,” campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said, citing the Waukesha County judge who ordered the board to use “reasonable” measures to find and strike duplicate and fictitious names from the petitions. “Upholding the integrity and fairness of the process is priority No. 1, and we are glad the GAB is committed to doing so.”
The GAB did not say how much more time it may want. Spokesman Reid Magney said the board will discuss the matter at its March 12 meeting.
Magney said the board wants to avoid scheduling recall elections during April because clerks around the state already will be busy with the regular spring election on April 4 and will need time to prepare for any recalls.
Meanwhile, Patrick O’Brien, 49, of New Glarus, said Wednesday that he plans to challenge Walker in a Republican primary. O’Brien, a house husband whose wife works for the state, said he voted for Walker in the last gubernatorial primary because he thought Walker was a moderate Republican.
O’Brien said he is an independent who has voted for Republicans in the past but accused Walker of being extreme, inflexible and not straightforward with voters.
“I thought he was running as a brown bag Republican,” O’Brien said. “What we were getting was a brown shirt Republican.”
O’Brien said he would work to promote and help grow the dairy industry in Wisconsin. “I want farmers to be able to join the state health insurance program at the cost to the state,” he said.
O’Brien’s entry to the race may not further delay a recall election because a Democratic primary is expected anyway. Two Democrats, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, are challenging Walker, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette also may get in the race.
Falk’s campaign urged the GAB to work to schedule a recall as soon as possible.
“More extensions allow Gov. Walker to continue breaking the spirit of campaign finance law by raising unlimited contributions,” Falk’s campaign spokesman Scot Ross said. “More delays benefit his war chest, but not the interests of Wisconsin.”