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Wisconsin Democrats ramp up recall efforts

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

MADISON, Wis. — Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were back at work Sunday on recall efforts targeting Republican state senators who supported the new governor’s overhaul of public employee union rights.

In a small office building one block from the Capitol, volunteers worked the phones and rallied support from voters in targeted Senate districts.

A sign on the wall listed three Republican senators as priorities: Luther Olsen, Rob Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf.

Joy Newmann, a retired university professor who was coordinating the phone bank, said organizers were using voter lists and other information to reach voters and encourage them to sign or circulate a recall petition.

The strategy, Newmann said, will be to target a different senator each day and saturate that district with calls. On Sunday, the target was Harsdorf. The phone bank was scheduled to continue seven days a week.

One day after a massive protest drew up to 100,000 people to the Capitol to support organized labor, Newmann was heartened to see volunteers turning out Sunday morning to help with the phone bank.

“People are dying to get involved in this,” she said.

Volunteer Joseph Siskind said he is confident that at least three senators will be ousted — although not necessarily those listed on the wall as priorities, he said. Some senators are entrenched in GOP strongholds but recall efforts are under way in those districts, too, he said.

Walker’s opponents feel strongly enough to wage a broad and sustained campaign — and ultimately recall the governor, Siskind said.

“I don’t think the anger’s going to go away,” he said. “I know my anger’s not going away.”

Last week, the Republican governor signed into law a measure curtailing collective bargaining rights for 175,000 public employees statewide. Republicans say the move is necessary to rein in government spending; critics say it is an effort to break organized labor’s back and dilute its impact on future elections.

Protesters who have been a fixture at the state Capitol for weeks returned Sunday, although in much smaller numbers than in recent days.

Union leaders were meeting to plot their next moves. In the same building as the recall phone bank, AFL-CIO officials were meeting to discuss possible legislative efforts at overturning Walker’s union measure and restoring collective bargaining rights.

Jose Bucio, an AFL-CIO coordinator from Milwaukee, said the union has no plans to leave Madison or give up on the collective bargaining issue.

“We’re here to try to get back what we need,” he said. “The battle’s not over.”

Gannett News Service

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