While the national media attention has been focused on the upcoming GOP primary in Wisconsin, there's another political battle gearing up in the Badger State, and it involves both Democrats and Republicans.
On Friday, the Government Accountability Board of Wisconsin is expected to certify the 1 million petitions turned in in January to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. With a special gubernatorial election pending, Democrats and Republicans in the state are bracing for a tight race ahead.
A special election is tentatively scheduled for June 5, with a Democratic primary to take place four weeks earlier, on May 8. (Those dates will be made official after the recall is certified.) Three Democrats have declared their candidacies - former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, Wisconsin secretary of state Doug LaFollette and state senator Kathleen Vinehout.
Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee who ran against Walker for governor in 2010 and lost, is reportedly considering another run, but he has not declared his candidacy yet. He is expected to make a decision by the beginning of next week.
Democrats in the state are flying high ahead of the official start of what will be a relatively short election season.
"We're feeling great," Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Mike Tate told ABC News. "I think the people of Wisconsin are ready to fire Scott Walker and hire a new governor."
The overwhelming success of the efforts by United Wisconsin to collect the signatures necessary to bring about a recall election might be interpreted as a sign that Walker is going to face a seriously uphill battle in this special election. However, recent polling shows that is not the case.
A Marquette Law School poll out earlier in the week shows Walker with a narrow lead over Barrett and Falk. When matched against Barrett, Walker had a two-point lead, 47 to 45 percent. Against Falk, Walker's lead widened a little to four points- 49 percent to Falk's 45 percent.
Although these numbers demonstrate a decrease in support for Walker since the previous Marquette Law School poll in January, which showed Walker with 6- and 7-point leads against Barrett and Falk respectively, Wisconsin Republicans are still very confident about the state of the race.
"We at the Republican Party of Wisconsin, we feel extremely confident that Governor Walker will win this recall fight," spokesman Ben Sparks told ABC News. "It comes down to the fact that voters went to the polls in 2010 because they wanted to turn our state around. "
Walker has several advantages over his Democratic opponents. Because of a quirk in Wisconsin state law, Walker was able to take in unlimited amounts of money while petitions were being gathered to recall him. During this time his campaign reported raising $4.5 million in just five weeks.
Walker has also had the advantage of time. During the period when signatures were being gathered, Walker was on the airwaves running a series of positive advertisements. Wisconsin Democrats discouraged potential candidates from campaigning during this time, focusing instead on the immediate task at hand. This meant that Walker, who already enjoyed more name recognition than his potential challengers, had roughly two months of unopposed advertising time.
Democrats have one priceless commodity, however: momentum. Their ability to turn out so many signatures in the fall and winter months of Wisconsin suggests a high degree of enthusiasm.
Officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties tell ABC News they are gearing up for the election. Though the two parties are at odds over most things, there's one thing they do agree on: Turnout will be very high.
- Scott Walker
- Kathleen Falk
- Governor Walker