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Statewide efforts under way to remove Walker from office

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 16, 2011
— They came by the dozens Tuesday to sign petitions that could lead to the historic ouster of a Wisconsin governor.

Organizers held a recall rally in the parking lot of the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave. All seemed intent on removing a governor they believe has failed them.


There was no counter demonstration.


“Education is our future, and that’s being taken away,” said Heather Jelinek-Hopp of Janesville.


“I feel we’re losing a lot of good teachers,” agreed Dan Hopp, Heather’s husband and a union construction worker who said taking away the public-sector unions’ bargaining rights was wrong.


“And the economy is going in the wrong direction,” Heather added.


Many people came, signed the petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefish, and left, so it was impossible to determine how many attended. The crowd was near 100 at its largest.


“This is a day we’ve waited nine months for,” said United Wisconsin organizer Lisa Sheldon, talking to the crowd with a megaphone.


Sheldon was referring to the massive protests in Madison last February, a response to Walker’s moves that ultimately stripped public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights.


“We talked the talk, and now it’s time to walk Walker out of office,” Sheldon said, eliciting cheers.


The rally was one of dozens scheduled statewide Tuesday. A similar rally is scheduled for noon today at UW-Rock County in Janesville.


Organizers have 60 days to come up with the more than 540,000 signatures required to force an election next year.


People in the crowd had varied reasons for wanting to replace a governor who was elected just one year ago.


“I love Wisconsin, and it breaks my heart what that man has done to this state. He’s divided families,” said Roseann Tank, a Janesville School District teacher.


Tank said she wasn’t interested in politics before, “but this has awakened something in me. I’m passionate about this.”


Tank said that because of state budget cuts the district lost many teachers who retired or found jobs elsewhere because they felt the threat of layoffs.


Republicans have argued that if Tank’s and other unions had agreed to pay for their benefits, as Walker had asked, that wouldn’t have happened.


Tank rejected the Republicans’ argument that the austerity moves were needed to balance the state budget.


“You had to come at teachers? That’s all you could do was come back at the public workers? I don’t think so,” she said.


Beloit teacher Tim Krause agreed, taking the megaphone to say that Walker was balancing the budget on the backs of teachers and his students.


“It’s class warfare, and I’m angry,” Krause said.


“I’m sick of him taking money from education and giving it to the corporate (interests),” said Jerry Poffenberger, a retiree.


Laura Stone of Janesville, who works for Rock County Health and Family Services, said she is paying for her pension now and is paying more for health insurance because of the Republican legislation.


After 38 years as a state worker, “It’s a big disappointment,” Stone said.


Kim Mork of Beloit is a county worker and union member who has bumper stickers that support Ron Paul for president and for recalling Walker. She calls herself a conservative who nevertheless thinks Walker is bad for the state.


“He went too far, and he’s going too far to massage the corporations he represents,” Mork said.


Mork said she’d prefer a Libertarian run against Walker in the recall, but only Democrats have signaled interest in the race so far.


“This two-party, corporate-elite system has got to go,” Mork said.


Mike Guisleman, the former county parks director, now retired, said he’s not anti-business, but he fears Walker is going too far in relaxing environmental regulations.


“Tourism is so important to Wisconsin, and once you lose it, you can’t get it back,” Guisleman said.


A steady stream of people interested in circulating petitions stopped at Rock County’s recall headquarters at the Janesville UAW Hall all day Tuesday, said local Democratic activist Vivian Creekmore.


Tuesday was the first day petitions could be signed.


Creekmore said organizers fear people will take petition sheets, get them signed and then destroy them, something that happened in the earlier senatorial recalls. She noted that doing so is a crime and suggested that if there is a doubt, ask to see the signature collector’s ID and copy it.


Sheldon guessed that 500 signatures had been collected as of late Tuesday. Rock County needs 279 signatures a day in order to meet its goals, she said.


Sheldon said signers must be 18, not convicted felons and need to have lived in Wisconsin for 28 days.


The county headquarters for the recall effort is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday at the UAW Hall, 1795 Lafayette St., Janesville. Petitions will be circulated through Jan. 13, Sheldon said.



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