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Record financial contributions expected in recall elections

Last Thursday, recall petitioner and Northwoods Tea Party leader Kim Simac, of Eagle River, announced her candidacy for the 12th Senate District after volunteers obtained nearly 23,000 signatures in the recall campaign against Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover.

The race is expected to be one of many highly-contested races that will take place this summer during a rare election cycle.

Unlike regular election cycles, recall elections are typically held within a six-month time frame - from the date a recall petition is filed and certified to the primary and general recall election.

As written, "A recall election is held on the Tuesday of the 6th week after the recall petition is certified. If a primary is required, the primary is held on Tuesday of the 6th week after the recall petition is certified, and the recall election is held on the Tuesday of the 4th week after the primary election."

Up for recall

There are currently 13 active Senate recall committees on file with the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Each senator being recalled may only face one recall election during their term in office. The 13 senators up for possible recall are Robert Cowles (R-02); Alberta Darling (R-08); Sheila Harsdorf (R-10); Jim Holperin (D-12); Luther Olsen (R-14); Mark Miller (D-16); Randy Hopper (R-18); Glenn Grothman (R-20); Robert Wirch (D-22); Julie Lassa (D-24); Mary Lazich (R-28); Dave Hansen (D-30); and Dan Kapanke (R-32).

Democrat Dave Hansen has two active committees working to file petitions against him, but only one is needed for a recall election.

In addition to the 13 senators, recall campaigns against Clark County Justice Jon Counsell and Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth have also been registered.

As of May 4, petitions against Miller, Grothman, Lassa and Lazich had not been filed with the GAB by the petition due date, (60 days from initial petition) and therefore will not continue on to a recall election until a petition is filed that has the necessary signatures.

Committees to recall Cowles, Darling, Harsdorf, Holperin, Olsen, Hopper, Wirch, Hansen and Kapanke have all submitted to the GAB petitions with required signatures.


Though petitioners were able to secure enough signatures from nine of the 13 eligible senators up for recall, challenges on those collected signatures are already on their way.

On Thursday, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed formal paperwork with the GAB citing that the board should reject petitions on the basis of what they claim was "systematic fraud" in obtainment of signatures.

Not to go uncontested, Republican Sheila Harsdorf has also filed a challenge with the board citing that the recall petitioner did not file a registration statement with the GAB and therefore petitions against her should be invalidated.


On April 29, Justice John Markson of Dane County, approved a proposal from the GAB for certifying recall elections and the sufficiency or insufficiency for each recall petition filing during the period of May 31 to June 3. Pending any legal challenges, the proposal would allow for eight of the nine elections to be held July 12.

Campaigns are already in full (if not covert) swing, raising money for this unusual election cycle. Elected Senate members have utilized mid-term advertising, direct-mail and email campaigns to help garner support for the upcoming recall elections. They may also have a significant incumbent advantage in fundraising over challengers

According to records provided by the GAB, senators holding office have collectively raised more than $874,000 in campaign war chest funds, including cash on hand and from previous election cycles. During a recall petition, elected officials are able to accept unlimited campaign contributions while the petitioners gather signatures.

These campaign contributions must be used specifically for recall campaign efforts. Sen. Jim Holperin has already accepted donations of $60,000 from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and $18,600 from the State Senate Democratic Committee. Fellow Democrat Dave Hansen's political action committee, Friends of Dave Hansen, also received $50,000 from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Not to be outraised by the Democrats, Republican Dan Kapanke through the Kapanke for State Senate fund, accepted $15,000 from an individual contributor and fellow Republican Alberta Darling's political action committee, Friends of Alberta Darling, accepted an individual contribution of $20,000.

As the election gets closer, experts will be tracking the funds from both in-state and out-of-state sources. Regardless of source, this mid-term cycle will surely to be one of Wisconsin's most costly recall elections.


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