Robert Wirch recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
Path to the ballot
About 18,300 signatures to recall Wirch were filed on April 21, 2011. Signatures were filed against nine different state senators in Wisconsin while a total of sixteen were originally targeted for recall. Challenges to the petition were set to be reviewed by the board on May 31, but delayed until June 8.
After hearing challenges to the petitions made by the incumbents, as well as presentations from the respective recall committees and board staff, the Board certified 17,138 signatures to recall Wirch,, approving the election for July 19. Since multiple candidates filed, however, a primary was held on July 19 with the recall on August 16.
Wirch defeated Steitz in the recall on August 16.
Dan Hunt, the organizer of the recall campaign, was said have considered running.
Steitz defeated Ekornaas in the July 19 primary.
|July 19 Republican primary|
Wirch defeated Steitz in the recall.
|August 16 Recall - District 22|
|Robert Wirch (D)||25,524||57.35%|
|Jonathan Steitz (R)||19,662||42.51%|
|Brian Harwood (Write-in)||23||.05%|
Jonathan Steitz’s campaign issued a call on July 25 for Wirch to debate the issues. According to a press release from Steitz, three organizations - the Kenosha Area Business Association, the American Association of University Women, and WLIP radio - invited the candidates to take part in debates, but Wirch did not respond. “Wirch is unwilling to stand on his record so he can avoid public discussion at all costs," Steitz said.
Wirch and Steitz took part in a Journal Times online forum on August 10, answering questions from readers. Their responses showed clear differences in the candidates, starting with their views on the recall itself. Wirch called it "a waste of taxpayer money put on by radical elements in the Republican Party," while Steitz said, "I believe that a recall is appropriate when an elected official fails to do his job and abdicates his responsibility to represent us in Madison." When asked their top priority, both said jobs, but greatly differed on the means to that end. Steitz called for a simpler tax code with overall reduced taxes, along with reduced regulations in order to promote competition. Wirch advocated for education that would lead to a well-trained workforce.
Ads relating to the campaign
On May 5, lawyers for Wirch submitted a 17-page document detailing their challenge to the petition to recall the senator. They argued that petitions circulated by recruited, paid circulators are invalid because they were paid per signature, as well as being rife with "fraud, misrepresentation, and other improprieties." Democrats said, of 225 people they contacted who had signed the petition, 6.6% said they were misled into signing or never actually signed.
The Recall Wirch group responded by filing a 50+ page rebuttal challenging the challenge.
Certification challenge delays
On May 27, 2011, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced it would be unable to consider the recall petitions for the three Democratic incumbents at the May 31, 2011 meeting. Citing "numerous factual and legal issues," the Board said in its statement that more time was needed to ensure that a complete record would be available for examination -- particularly since the decision would likely be appealed to the courts.
In a release, the GAB officials said they did not expect to be able to hold a hearing on the recalls of Democratic incumbents until the week of June 6, which raised potential legal issues, as the initial extension granted to GAB for certification required it to ultimately make determinations before June 3.
The board went ahead with hearings on May 31 for the recalls of Republican incumbents Sheila Harsdorf, Robert Cowles and Alberta Darling. Officials released a 125-page memo on May 27, 2011 concerning the signatures and legal challenges.
The GAB filed a brief on June 1 asking the court for a one-week extension, which would give them until June 10 to finish working on the three Democratic recalls. The case was heard in Dane County Court at 1:30 pm on Friday, June 3. Dane County Judge John Markson ruled that there was good cause for the extension, and that the GAB did not violate any rules by taking up the petitions out of order.
Ultimately, on June 8, after nearly 9 hours of deliberations, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified the recalls of three Democratic incumbents and set an initial election for July 19.
It was revealed in late April that one of the signatures on the recall Wirch petition was Bill Pocan, the father of Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan. However, Bill Pocan had been dead for 20 years. The chair of the recall committee, Dan Hunt, said the name did appear to be forged, but accused Democrats of signing it to try to invalidate the petition.
Following the certification of the recall petitions against the three targeted Democrats on June 8, Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the incumbent Democrats, did not immediately indicate whether an appeal would be filed based on the GAB’s ruling. Soon after, the party appealed the decision with the Dane County Circuit Court due to what they said was widespread fraud.
State Chairman Mike Tate said, "The GAB agreed that out-of-state circulators hired by the Republican Party to gather recall signatures committed repeated and flagrant acts of election fraud upon the people of Wisconsin. A higher authority should review this stunning conspiracy to defraud the voters, and throw out all the signatures gathered by these deceitful circulators."
While thousands of signatures were rejected by the Board, Democrats said that if Wisconsin statues were followed to the letter there would not be enough signatures for any of the recalls.
After hearing arguments on July 8, Judge Richard Niess ruled that all of the nine recalls should proceed, saying that election officials had already thoroughly and correctly addressed the complaints.
Conducted August 12-14
|August 16, 2011 Recall - District 22 - Daily Kos/PPP Poll|
|Robert Wirch Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 102813)|
|Report||Date Filed||Beginning Balance||Total Contributions||(Expenditures)||Cash on Hand|
|Special Pre-Election||August 8, 2011||$141,752.51||$53,427.35||$(103,491.98)||$91,687.88|
|July Continuing||July 11, 2011||$100,032.70||$130,805.68||$(91,616.87)||$139,221.51|
|Special Pre-Election||April 25, 2011||$93,205.86||$7,937.53||$(136.00)||$101,007.39|
|Spring Pre-Election||March 28, 2011||$52,850.99||$43,027.42||$(2,672.55)||$93,205.86|
The following political action committees have made donations to Alberta Darling:
- Spring Pre-Election Report March 28, 2011
- Special Pre-Election Report April 25, 2011
- July Continuing Report July 11, 2011
- Special Pre-Election August 8, 2011
As of the April 25, 2011, Taxpayers to Recall Robert Wirch has raised $12,783.52 and spent $11,639.37.
|Taxpayers to Recall Robert Wirch Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 102813)|
|Report||Date Filed||Beginning Balance||Total Contributions||(Expenditures)||Cash on Hand|
|Special Pre-Election||April 25, 2011||$6,535.11||$2,040.00||$(7,430.96)||$1,144.15|
|Spring Pre-Election||March 28, 2011||$0.00||$10,743.52||$(4,208.41)||$6.535.11|
- GAB staff memo to the Board on the Recall Petition Challenge to Senator Wirch - June 7, 2011
- GAB staff memo to the Board on Sens. Hansen, Holperin & Wirch's challenges to circulator residence and fraud - June 7, 2011
- Wirch Exhibits for June 8, 2011 GAB meeting
The following documents are attributed to the Wirch recall and have been publicized by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
- Verified Challenge of Sen. Robert Wirch
- Summary of All Fail Types
- Signer Date Challenges
- Phone Challenges
- Fakes and Forgeries Challenges
- Eligibility Challenges
- Duplicate Entry Challenges
- District Challenges
- Circulator Address Challenges
- Address Challenges
- Memo in Support of Sen. Wirch Challenge
- Wirch Rebuttal
- Sen. Wirch Reply in Support of Challenge
- Objection to Wirch Reply
- Recall Petition Verification - Wirch
- Recall of Wisconsin State Senators (2011)
- State legislative recalls
- Recall campaigns in Wisconsin
- Laws governing recall in Wisconsin
- ↑ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall petitions filed against 4 lawmakers," April 21, 2011
- ↑ Talking Points Memo, "Wis. Elections Staff Recommend Recalls Against Three GOPers," May 20, 2011
- ↑ WisPolitics, "Dem recalls certified," June 8, 2011
- ↑ 620 WTMJ, "Capitol Chaos: Possible Challenger in Recall Election," May 9, 2011
- ↑ Post Crescent "Democrats get new recall challengers," May 19, 2011
- ↑ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Kenosha County Board vice chair announces recall run against Wirch," May 7, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 19 Primary Election Results District 22," accessed August 11, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "District 22 recall election results," accessed August 26, 2011
- ↑ WisPolitics, “Steitz Campaign: Wirch ducking debates with Steitz,” July 25, 2011
- ↑ The Journal Times, "Wirch and Steitz battling to the finish during JT online forum," August 11, 2011
- ↑ Memorandum in support Of Sen. Wirch's Challenge to Petitions, May 5, 2011
- ↑ Democratic Party of Wisconsin, "GOP Election Fraud Exposed," May 5, 2011
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Review of recall petitions going slowly; July 12 election in doubt," May 27, 2011
- ↑ Greenfield Reporter "Wis. election officials delay decision on recall petitions for Dems, may need date change," May 27, 2011
- ↑ WisPolitics, "GAB formally asks judge for more time to consider recall petitions against Dems," June 1, 2011
- ↑ Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "State board requests more time to review recall petitions," June 1, 2011
- ↑ NBC 15, "UPDATE: Judge Grants Week Extension for Recall Review," June 3, 2011
- ↑ WISN, “GAB Certifies 3 Democratic Recall Elections,” June 8, 2011
- ↑ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Regional News Briefs," April 29, 2011
- ↑ WFRV “Wis. elections board trims petition signatures,” June 8, 2011
- ↑ WisPolitics, "WisDems: Dems to appeal GAB decision on widespread GOP election fraud," June 15. 2011
- ↑ Madison.com, "Dems: Throw out recall petitions," June 15. 2011
- ↑ WUWM, "Judges Rules Senate Recalls Can Proceed," July 8, 2011
- ↑ ‘’Daily Kos, “Wisconsin recalls: Democrats hold double-digit leads in final 2 races,” August 15, 2011
- ↑ FDL Reporter, 'State group files campaign finance complaints against 3 recall targets,” June 7, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Robert W. Wirch", August 8, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Robert W. Wirch", July 11, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Robert W. Wirch", April 25, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Robert W. Wirch", March 28, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Taxpayers to Recall Robert W. Wirch", April 25, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Taxpayers to Recall Robert W. Wirch", March 28, 2011