Effort to recall Wisconsin governor gaining steam
KENOSHA, Wisconsin — Wisconsinites aren’t afraid to try and kick a governor out of office before his term is up.
And that’s exactly what some hope to do with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who is facing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his response to the coronavirus and the recent unrest in Kenosha after Jacob Blake was shot and paralyzed by a police officer last month.
Launched in late August following the riots that led to tens of millions of dollars in damage throughout the state, the effort has already garnered thousands of signatures, according to activists who spoke with the Washington Examiner. In order to successfully recall a governor in Wisconsin and trigger a new election, 25% of the total number of voters who participated in the last election must sign the recall petition.
That means those behind the recall effort, like Richard Herbert of Kenosha, will need to collect nearly 670,000 signatures before the Oct. 25 deadline.
“The governor is technically in control of asking for state and federal help when there’s a riot like we saw the other week,” said Herbert, 63. “But he waited a day before doing anything. We only have roughly 60 police for the whole city. And then they wouldn’t even protect businesses. So it’s just unacceptable, and we think people here are fed up.”
Observing Richard Herbert and his wife, Jane, collect signatures at a Kenosha park Thursday afternoon did provide some evidence that the recall effort is gaining momentum. Since they started at 8 a.m. that morning, hundreds of residents pulled over and signed their names. Over the course of their conversation with the Washington Examiner, roughly 10 people signed their names to recall Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, and Kenosha County Executive James Kreuser.
“I’ve never been involved with politics before, other than working as a polling volunteer in the last election,” said Jane Herbert, who said she has voted for both Republicans and Democrats. “We’ve been talking to Republicans, Democrats, everyone. It’s not about Biden or Trump, it’s about protecting our town.”
The effort to recall Evers has spread statewide, with a newly created Facebook group seeing nearly 63,000 members join since it was launched on Aug. 26.
Should the activists prove successful, Evers would be the second Wisconsin governor in a row to face a recall. Then-GOP Gov. Scott Walker was recalled in 2012 after progressive outrage following a budget bill that would have stripped collective bargaining rights from most state employees. But in a subsequent election, Walker handily beat his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, with 53.1% of the vote. Walker lost his bid for a third term to Evers in 2018.
Only two governors have been successfully recalled in American history, Lynn Frazier of North Dakota, a member of the Nonpartisan League who voters removed from office in 1921, and Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, who was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has been critical of the recall campaign, calling it unnecessarily obstructive and partisan.
“Trying to recall a governor with a 57% job approval rating in the midst of a global pandemic and civil unrest is irresponsible and absurd,” said party spokeswoman Courtney Beyer last month.
Frustration with Evers has been bubbling since the height of the coronavirus epidemic, with Republican lawmakers in the state pushing back against his lockdown policies. In May, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Evers’s attempt to extend the stay-at-home order in a 4-3 decision following a lawsuit filed by Republicans.
But Evers’s response to Kenosha was the last straw. Aside from his delayed response to the rioting, many residents objected to his letter asking President Trump not to visit, saying the trip would interfere with the community’s “healing.”
“It is our job as elected officials to lead by example and to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma. Now is not the time for divisiveness,” Evers wrote.
Many locals objected to those comments, calling them nakedly political, and noted that the governor did not use similar language to oppose former Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Kenosha on Thursday.
“There’s just no leadership from Evers. All of this damage could have been stopped Day One. Day One,” said Ron Carly, 70, who signed the recall position on Thursday. “So much of this damage wasn’t even done by people who live here. They came in from out of town, and what was the governor’s response? Sit back and do nothing.”