Recall effort finds support in Rock County

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
— Organizers in Rock and Walworth counties say they’re impressed with the outpouring of people who want to sign petitions to recall their governor.

The response is so big that finding enough volunteers to collect people’s signatures is a problem, said Vivian Creekmore, a volunteer “communications captain” for the Rock County effort.

The number of volunteers is sufficient in Walworth County, but organizers have had to extend office hours and expand signing events to accommodate the demand, said Ellen Holly, Creekmore’s counterpart in Elkhorn.

United Wisconsin, the statewide organization working for the recalls of Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefish, announced it has more than 300,000 signatures in the first 12 days of the 60-day effort. More than 540,000 signatures are needed to trigger a recall election.

Rock County was assigned a minimum 289 signatures a day. Walworth County’s minimum is 130. Organizers said they have easily exceeded those goals.

If those numbers hold true, Rock County produced more than 4,000 signatures in the first two weeks, while Walworth County contributed well over 1,800.

Holly said Walworth County turned in more than 1,000 signatures collected from last Wednesday through Sunday, many from weekend events in Delavan and Lake Geneva.

Neither organizer could provide precise numbers.

Walker has responded with campaign-style TV ads opposing the recall.

The apparent initial success has attracted national news media attention and campaign-style fundraising and spending.

Rock County now has two paid Democratic Party staffers. They are not allowed to talk to reporters because if they and their counterparts spoke out all over the state, “they wouldn’t be in control of the message, then,” Creekmore said.

A group called The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama issued a fundraising email Tuesday, urging people to send money to support Walker.

“With your support we WILL defeat the effort by Barack Obama's allies in Wisconsin to RECALL Gov. Walker,” the email states. “Let us show the world that Scott Walker's policies of fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity through growth in the private sector represent the path forward for America, and in doing so let us reject Barack Obama's push for quasi-socialist policies and big government liberalism.”

Recall organizers learned from the earlier Senate recalls and are trying to ensure they collect signatures that can’t be challenged, Creekmore said.

“We’re doing everything in our power. We’re observing every legality.”

For instance, it’s OK for the volunteer to jot down the city of residence if the signer forgot to, but just in case, the volunteers will initial the petition when they do that, Creekmore said. They’ll do the same if a pen runs out of ink and they switch to a different kind of ink, so they can’t be accused of tampering.

Holly said Rock and Walworth counties are coordinating so they don’t duplicate efforts.

Creekmore, who like Holly has been active in her local Democratic Party, said she expected a huge organizational effort would be needed. She was surprised that the “political entrepreneurialism” of local volunteers has made the organizing easier.

Both county efforts have groups organized in various towns, villages and cities.

“Drive-by” signing events have proved popular. People can sign from the comfort of their cars while the engines are running.

Holly said she stood in rain seven hours Saturday but was warmed by people’s good will and the occasional coffee or hot chocolate people donated to the cause.

“We’re really limited by (a lack of) volunteers, not the numbers of people who are signing,” Creekmore said.

The efforts have offices in Janesville and Beloit open for signers every day. The Elkhorn office’s hours are more limited.

Volunteers on average are older and liberal, Creekmore said, but there’s a sprinkling of conservatives and independents.

Organizers have to tread carefully with some who want to recall Walker but who don’t want to be identified with unions or the Democratic Party, Creekmore said.

“I think what is most interesting is that it is not a political issue anymore. It is a social/economic issue” for some people, Holly said.

“A simplistic explanation would be, when you feel it in your paycheck, it catches your attention,” Holly said, referring to new laws that are requiring government workers to pay more for their benefits.

Holly said some people object to Republican efforts to enact more stringent voter-ID requirements.

“I think people understand that real basic fairness concept, in this part of the state in particular,” Holly said. “We’re just small-town folks, and we understand what’s right and what’s wrong, and this isn’t right.”

The raised fingers and epithets have been few, Holly and Creekmore both reported, and have been overwhelmed by supporters.

Creekmore said she’s been baffled by people calling out “get a job!” to elderly, well dressed volunteers, even on Sundays.

Last updated: 6:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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