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Recalling elected officials no small task

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |   March 20, 2011 at 3:30 AM   |   Comments

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Consumers unhappy with a purchase can return the item to the store; dissatisfied voters must initiate a recall process, a cumbersome exercise to remove an elected official from office.

Unavailable on the federal level, the recall election was one of the major electoral reforms advocated by Progressive leaders during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the majority of states permit recall elections in local jurisdictions, only 18 states permit recall elections to remove state officials.

Such as Wisconsin. Voters there are angered by the vitriolic, divisive battle over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan that includes severely limiting the collective bargaining process for public employees.

While Walker hasn't been subject of any real substantive recall chatter, 16 state lawmakers -- eight Republicans and eight Democrats -- could feel voters' wrath.

The last governor successfully recalled was Gray Davis, who voters chased from the governor's office in California in 2003 in a state budget tiff.

Until last week, the last successful recall was in 2010 when James Holley was voted out as mayor of Portsmouth, Va.


The power of the pen

Democrats in Wisconsin say they've collected nearly half of the signatures required hold recall elections for eight Republican state senators, The Washington Post reported recently.

Democrats say they've collected more than 56,000 signatures -- roughly 45 percent -- supporting recall drives.

That Republicans were able to pass the budget fix Walker wanted through a legislative maneuver galvanized the Democratic base, which has charged the GOP overreached, and revitalized a nostalgic affection for blue-collar unions.


And what's my address?

The estranged wife of one Wisconsin Republican senator facing a potential recall, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, is telling anyone who'll listen that Hopper doesn't live in the area he represents, The (Fond du Lac) Reporter reported.

Hopper's wife, Alysia Hopper, said her estranged husband moved out of their home last May and lives "mostly in Madison," even though Hopper's Web page lists the couple's home as his official address. She said Hopper has received death threats so she's alerting everyone that he lives elsewhere.

Hopper Campaign Manager Jeff Harvey said the senator maintains a residence -- an apartment -- in his district even though he moved out of his Fond du Lac home 10 months ago.

Harvey said recalls of Republicans were being spearheaded by "union bosses who want to handpick new senators who will vote the way union bosses tell them to" and an attempt to "undermine the voters who want to bring fiscal responsibility to Madison."

If a recall election occurs, Harvey said he believes Hopper will retain his seat.

State law requires a lawmaker to live in the Senate district he or she represents, although a temporary absence is permitted as long as the lawmaker intends to move back into the district, a state Government Accountability Board spokesman told The Reporter.

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'Butterfly Effect' more than a movie

Wisconsin's drive for recall elections could have a ripple effect across the nation, a commentary on EINNews.com said.

The commentary suggests if signature-gatherers are successful in getting enough legal names on petitions to call a recall election and that election is successful, the state Senate could swing Democratic once again. In other words, a small ripple here can snowball into a major event elsewhere, or the butterfly effect.

Democrats need to flip three seats in the recall elections to regain the majority, which could create shivers in Washington, D.C., and in 49 other states.

The odds are good, too. Democrats have a shot in at least six of the Republican seats subject to recall -- all held by senators whose districts voted for President Obama over GOP hopeful John McCain. On the Democratic side, every senator targeted by Republicans for recall serves in a district Obama carried.

Both major political parties and major interest groups representing a range of views are watching and expected to contribute to their respective sides, the commentary said. Any outcome is expected to influence decisions of potential candidates for office -- and likely will affect the presidential race expected to draw major attention by September.


Voters turn deaf ear to two Miami-Dade government officials

Voters in Florida, fueled by anger over county spending, tax increases and a controversial stadium deal, ousted Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez last week. They also waved bye-bye to County Commissioner Natacha Seijas as well.

The recall election, engineered by South Florida auto magnate Norman Braman, drew a relatively heavy turnout, Sunshine State News said. Gimenez called the recall "the result of inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars and an increase in property taxes at a time when Miami-Dade residents are least able to afford it."


Bell rung for Bell, Calif., council members

As if Bell, Calif., needed any more bad press, voters overwhelmingly decided to recall council members in the scandal-plagued city, election results indicated.

More than 95 percent of voters said "yes" Wednesday to removing each of the four council members from office, election results indicate.

One of the four, Luis Artiga, had already resigned but his name remained on the ballot, CNN reported. The other three ejected from the council were Oscar Hernandez, George Mirabal and Teresa Jacobo.

Bell, about 10 miles southeast of Los Angeles, made national news when prosecutors accused eight city officials of misappropriating millions of dollars in city funds and pocketing exorbitant salaries.

Four of the now-ex-officials were ordered to stand trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court on corruption charges, prosecutors said, joining other four, who were ordered last month to stand trial.

The four defendants are collectively charged with misusing $6.7 million in city funds.

Voters also elected replacement council members on the same ballot.


Recall light shines on Idaho's Luna

A recall effort against Idaho Education Superintendent Tom Luna is picking up speed across the state.

Nancy Berto of Boise started the initiative in response to Luna's controversial education reform plan, posting a Web site and a Facebook page to get her message out, the Bonner County Daily Bee in Sandpoint, Idaho, reported.

The plan, packaged in three bills moving through the state Legislature and backed by Republican Gov. Butch Otter, would eliminate seniority in layoffs and link teacher pay to performance. While efforts to scale back public employee union influence in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana have angered teachers, the move in Idaho could be the most far-reaching effort to use teachers' rights and performance as part of an attempt to revise a state's entire educational process, observers said.

Berto said in a news release the Committee to Recall Tom Luna "set (as) its goals to remove a man from office who is trying to dismantle our public education system for the interests of large lobbies and corporations who have funded him in his bids for office."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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