The Wisconsin elections board ruled Tuesday that three more Republican state senators will have to face recall elections in coming weeks.
The Government Accountability Board voted to hold recall elections for Sens. Robert Cowles of Shawano, Alberta Darling of Milwaukee and Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, all Republicans. If the GOP decides not to challenge the ruling in court, the elections will most likely be held this summer.
Tuesday’s vote brings to six the number of Republican senators successfully targeted for recall elections by liberal and union activists over their support for the state Legislature’s decision in February to strip most state employees of collective-bargaining rights and require them to pay more toward their health care and pension costs.
Republicans maintain the bill was needed to close Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion projected deficit, but Democrats accused Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP supporters of union-busting. The law is on hold while it is being challenged in court.
Three Democratic senators also face possible recalls, but the GAB, citing “numerous factual and legal issues” on the recall petitions for Jim Holperin of Conover, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Dave Hansen of Green Bay, postponed discussions to next week.
Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said petitions for Sens. Cowles and Darling were submitted after the petitions for all three Democrats.
“I think it sends a message that here in Madison, there are two sets of rules — one for Republicans and one for Democrats,” Mr. Jefferson said. “But we’re going to be very aggressive in defending our senators in these recall elections.”
Republicans targeted in the recall efforts fired back.
“Todays announcement was just another step toward another election the special interests need because they want to block reform and continue spending beyond taxpayers’ ability to pay,” Nathan Duerkop, spokesman for Ms. Harsdorf’s campaign, said in a statement.
Republicans won an important battle earlier Tuesday, when state Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Democrat, announced her decision to concede the election to incumbent Justice David Prosser, a Republican.
Many viewed the Supreme Court race as a referendum on Mr. Walker’s bill.
“With today’s ruling, there are now six Republicans facing recall elections this summer because they put the special interests and political extremists ahead of the people in their districts,” Mike Tate, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “This summer we start to take back Wisconsin by recalling these senators and winning a majority in the state Senate.”