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Recall Sen. Alberta Darling?

Feb. 23, 2011
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Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) was first elected to the state Assembly in May 1990 to replace Betty Jo Nelsen, who was appointed to a position in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Darling was elected as the moderate candidate in a three-way Republican primary and faced no Democratic candidate in the general election. Two years after the 1990 redistricting, Darling won a state Senate seat.

Two trends have occurred since her first election. Her district has become more moderate and, as the Republican Party has gotten far more conservative, Sen. Darling has moved sharply to the right. For example, prior to getting elected to the Legislature, she served on a board of Planned Parenthood; now, she does not even mention that fact in her official biography in the Wisconsin Blue Book.

Her sharp move to the right was well rewarded in Madison. As she abandoned her more moderate positions, the Republican leadership rewarded her first with a position on the powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) and ultimately as chair of the JFC.

With her recent action as JFC chair pushing this “emergency budget bill” through her committee—promoting the destruction of the social contract that had existed for more than 50 years and produced harmonious labor relationships in Wisconsin between governments and their employees—there is some very serious blow-back in the community.

The chair of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party, Sachin Chheda, expressed very deep concern about what is happening in the Capitol. "Sen. Alberta Darling is leading the way to pass this terrible legislation,” Chheda said. “Every day we learn about something new they are proposing. They are trying to take taxpayer assets like power plants and give them away in sweetheart deals to their campaign contributors, costing the taxpayers millions. They are trying to give the governor unilateral power to decide who gets health care and who doesn't. They are using the fiction of a budget emergency—which state statute says doesn't even exist—to prevent tens of thousands of workers from having a voice in their workplace.

"Sen. Darling chaired the committee that cut off debate and is leading the fight to pass this extreme legislation,” Chheda continued. “In our view, it's long past time for Sen. Darling to urge Gov. Walker and her colleagues to come to the negotiating table and resolve the current impasse. The fact that she seems unwilling to do that is what is leading citizens from all political persuasions, throughout her district, to turn away from their support of her.

"Rather than a continued, nasty political fight that divides our community, we'd prefer that Republican legislators do their job and come to the negotiating table,” Chheda added. “If they don't, it's clear that the citizens of the 8th District will hit the streets to find a new state senator."

There are several groups talking about recalling Sen. Darling; others are on the sideline waiting to see if she is willing to negotiate with her colleagues now that Wisconsin public employees have agreed to contribute significantly to their benefit packages.

To initiate a recall, a petitioner must file with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. Then they have 60 days to collect the number of signatures from the incumbent’s district equal to or greater than 25% of the number of votes cast in that district in the last November election. For the 8thSenate District, that would be 20,343 valid signatures. If multiple groups are circulating petitions, a constituent can sign multiple petitions. A person does not have to live in the district to help collect signatures, but he or she must be a qualified voter.

One angry constituent, Dr. Sara Johann, said, "I was the Democratic candidate against Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling in 2000. Last week I sent her an e-mail informing her that if she supports Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill (Senate Bill 11), I will support her recall. The provisions of this bill destroy collective bargaining rights for certain workers and are unacceptable. These union-busting measures harm all workers.

“Several groups have formed on Facebook and the Internet which are considering recalling Darling,” Johann continued. “The group named ‘Recall Alberta Darling, State Senator, Wisconsin District 8,’ led by Kristopher Rowe, is serious about forming a recall committee and petitioning to recall Darling. Unless Darling suddenly decides to listen to her district constituents and announces she will oppose the union-busting Walker budget repair bill, formal efforts to recall her will be under way soon. I would advise the 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators to remain out of Wisconsin unless three Republican state senators go on television and publicly announce that they will vote against Walker's bill."

To the degree that the tea party crowd drove the fall elections, the pendulum has quickly shifted back, and now it is the moderate independent voters who are incensed by what they have seen in the last few weeks—and they have made it clear that they will bring the state back to its moderate progressive roots.


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