DANE (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker hit the campaign trail to make the case for keeping his job, while Democrats hoping to unseat him in a recall election in two months filed signatures Tuesday to get on the ballot.
With his wife and two teenage sons in tow, along with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Walker told about 50 supporters at a farm in the town of Dane that the June 5 recall is a test of political courage about which direction the state will go.
"We're headed in the right direction," Walker said in front of a parked John Deere tractor inside a barn at Henry Farms. "We're turning things around. We're moving Wisconsin forward."
The recall was motivated by anger over changes Walker pushed through the Legislature last year that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
Retired steamfitter Mike Reynders, 65, of Fort Atkinson held a sign that said "Union Steamfitters for Walker." Reynders said he supported Walker's proposals, which he said were justified to deal with a $3.6 billion budget shortfall at the time.
"I'm a little discouraged," Reynders said of the recall. "I voted for this man to get four years."
Walker's campaign stop just 20 miles north of the capital of Madison was the first of six taking him to La Crosse, Eau Claire, Mosinee, Green Bay and Milwaukee. It was his first official campaign tour of the campaign, and it came the same day challengers were required to submit at least 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
Both Walker and Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators, were targeted for recall. The primary is May 8, a month away, with the general election June 5. One of the targeted senators, Pam Galloway, of Wausau, stepped down but the election is proceeding to fill her seat.
Four Democrats are running for the party's nomination to take on Walker: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette.
Both Falk and Vinehout turned in nomination papers Tuesday morning with election officials. Barrett's wife and former Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, who announced earlier Tuesday she was endorsing Barrett, turned in the mayor's signatures.
Candidates for lieutenant governor and the Senate races also were expected to file before the 5 p.m. deadline. The Republican Party has recruited fake Democrats to run in all six recall elections, a move party officials said is designed to ensure there will be a primary in all the races. That would ensure the general election for all six contests is on June 5. Any race without a primary would be decided May 8.
"The bottom line is most people around the state want the election on the same day," Walker said after his campaign speech in Dane. "People are totally confused. They want it all on June 5, and no matter how we get there, I think it's good to have it all on the same day."
Walker said he had no preference who he faced in the general election.
"Whoever is on the ballot is secondary to the money that's coming in from the unions out of state," Walker said.
All the unions that have endorsed a candidate to date, including the largest public sector union and the statewide teachers' union, are backing Falk. A union-backed third party group called Wisconsin for Falk has run television ads supporting her.
Falk began running the first television ad from a Democratic candidate on Tuesday, with a 30-second spot on cable channels across the state. The positive ad doesn't mention Walker or any of her Democratic opponents and instead features Falk talking directly to the camera about her record as Dane County executive for 14 years between 1997 and 2011.
Walker, who began airing ads in November, has been traveling the country raising millions of dollars from out-of-state donors. As of mid-January, he had raised more than $12 million. The next reporting deadline for all candidates is April 30.
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