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Although he faces a much-publicised recall effort, Wisconsin voters aren’t negative on Gov. Scott Walker,

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a new survey shows.

A poll by Marquette University shows that Walker’s approval rating is above his disapproval rating for the first time since he took office, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Voters approve of Walker’s performance 51 percent to 46 percent disapproval. Fifty percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, versus 46 percent who do not.

Walker also has single-digit leads over Democrats who might face him in a recall election.

The governor’s performance ratings bounce around a bit, depend on which organization is conducting the poll, the Journal-Sentinel says.

The most recent nonpartisan public polls on Walker were done last fall. Walker’s approval rating was 38% in a November survey by Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College; it was 47% in an October survey by Public Policy Polling; 49% in an October survey by Rasmussen; and 42% in an October survey by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. These polls all have different methodologies, so some variation is normal.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker might have preferred to forget last week, when a truck filled with more than 1 million recall signatures showed up in Madison. But over the weekend, Walker got a pep talk from one of the state’s most fiery orators.

Former governor Tommy Thompson, a Republican who is running for the United States Senate, threw his enthusiastic support behind Walker and his efforts to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

His pro-Walker comments came at a rally in Wauwatosa.

According to the paper,

“In the middle of the speech, Thompson took off his blue sportcoat to reveal a red Wisconsin coat with a large W. “We are a red state and we are not going to let them take it back to a blue state,” Thompson said.

“We are Wisconsin. We are Republicans. We’re taking our state back. The only thing better than Scott Walker winning the first time is Scott Walker winning the second time. We are going to show them once and for all that we are for real and we are not going back.”

Thompson concluded, “W is for Win, W is for Walker and W is for Wisconsin.”

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Web Cam, showing state accountability board staffers verifying the petition signatures, is getting bigger than ever. Its parody Twitter account now has 1,201 followers (although it’s still only following the Reverend Al Sharpton).

Signature verification in Wisconsin becomes a Web darling.

If you checked it out last week, here’s an explanation of what those staffers are doing.


Signature verification in Wisconsin becomes a Web darling.

Wisconsin Web Cam

Forget live streams watching the giant panda in Edinburgh, or the weather in Chicago. The newest Internet plaything is the Wisconsin Web Cam.

The camera shows members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, or GAB, verifying more than 1 million signatures delivered earlier this week by opponents of Gov. Scott Walker, seeking his recall in November.

Although the work is essentially repetitive, and the staffers solemn, the GAB cam has become an instant must-see for political junkies in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It has its own parody Twitter account — @recallcam — and some watchers keep track of their favorite verifiers.

That might seem the ultimate waste of time. But, given the high stakes involved, others see it as a civics lesson. As the Associated Press put it, “You know you live in a state consumed by politics when a webcam showing bureaucrats silently shuffling around a nondescript room feeding papers into a scanner attracts tens of thousands of viewers.

Our friends at NPR’s The Two-Way blog have more, if you’re as fascinated as we are.

So, click on the link above (not the photo, that’s a screen grab) and enjoy due process at work.


Michigan Film Incentives: In our very first story, Changing Gears told you about The Film Factory — the race between our states to attract movie productions. But last year, Michigan capped its film incentives, and the result was immediate, reports The Atlantic Cities. Only 84 productions applied for incentives in 2011, and just 22 were approved. That compares with 119 applications in 2010, when 66 were approved.

Ohio Police: Tiny Woodmere, Ohio, is known for having one of the highest ratios of police to residents — one officer for every 50 residents. But Woodmere now may shut its police force and hire protection from nearby Orange, Ohio, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Its mayor feels the half-square mile village can no longer afford the $1.2 million cost. Orange, which surrounds Woodmere, plans to charge $500,000, the mayor says.

Wisconsin Web Cam: Wisconsinites have been riveted by the debate over recalling Gov. Scott Walker. So much, that a Web Cam showing bureaucrats counting recall signatures has become a hit. The Associated Press reports that watchers have given nicknames to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board who are reviewing the signatures, and the Web Cam has gotten its own Twitter account, @recallcam. (The account is following just one person: The Reverend Al Sharpton.)


Proponents of the drive to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker needed 540,208 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. Yesterday, they arrived at the Government Accountability Board in Madison with more than 1 million signatures, virtually guaranteeing voters will consider the proposal.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

If it gets on the ballot, the recall Walker initiative would be the first such vote in Wisconsin history, and only the third in the nation’s history. Voters kicked out California’s governor, Gray Davis, in 2003, and North Dakota governor Lynn Frazier in 1923.

The subject has riveted Wisconsin politics and means the debate over Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions will continue through the fall.

But there are hurdles, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. For one thing, no Democratic candidate has emerged as the leader to challenge Walker. The Wisconsin governor, meanwhile, has had plenty of time to prepare for a recall election, and has been raising funds around the country.

And, Republican party officials say they’ll scrutinize every signature, amid reports of people signing petitions multiple times.

Read up on Wisconsin and its turbulent year here. Then, tune in for our coverage Feb. 1 when Niala Boodhoo looks at Wisconsin a year after Walker took office.


Wrangling over the potential recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is heating up, as a Jan. 17 deadline to turn in recall petition signatures approaches.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

On Thursday, Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis ordered the State Government Accountability Board to pro-actively screen signatures on the recall petitions of Walker and five other state officials.

In the past, those gathering the recall signatures were the only ones responsible for ensuring signatures on petitions were not fake or otherwise invalid.

Walker’s campaign committee and the state Republican Party brought the suit against the Accountability Board, claiming concern over fake and duplicate signatures.

The Board warned that the extra verification could take up to eight additional weeks or $94,000. It’s unclear if the state will need to spend that amount of time or resources.

But there was a major caveat in the court ruling. The judge gave the board some breathing room in its decision, saying that their obligation to verify the signatures will be limited by the resources they have or can reasonably find.

Those organizing the recall drive are confident they will have enough signatures on the 17th to allow the recall process to move forward. They’ll need just over 540,000 or one-quarter of the number of voters who cast in the November election. Whatever the review process, it’s likely that more court challenges to the recall drive will happen after signatures are filed.

Walker, who took office a year ago, was at the center of a bitter battle over stripping most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Voters subsequently recalled some of the lawmakers who voted in favor of a new law, but Republicans retain control of state government.

Read Changing Gears’ coverage of Walker and Wisconsin politics here.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Upper Peninsula’s mining boom. The mining industry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is enjoying a renaissance more than a century after its best days passed. New technology demands are creating demand for gold, silver, copper and nickel, the Detroit Free Press reports today. Foreign companies are finding them in abundance in both new and reopened ore mines. Mineral rights on more than 1 million acres have been leased for prospecting. But many of the mines are near rivers and Lake Superior, sparking concern among environmentalists. “I’m not anti-mine. I’m anti-mining pollution,” one advocate tells the newspaper.

2. Busy finale ahead for Illinois legislators. The Illinois state legislature could end its fall session Tuesday with a flurry of activity. Lawmakers are expected to vote on several pieces of legislation that have garnered attention for months, including a bill that would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which extends larger refunds to working families. Our partner station WBEZ reports the legislature could also tackle a package of tax incentives designed to keep CME Group and Sears based in in the state. Both have been wooed in recent months by Indiana and other competitors. A vote on legislation that would expand gambling in the state could also take place.

3. Walker plots recall strategy. A possible recall election may not take place until next summer, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is wasting no time in campaigning to keep his job. Walker is running television ads defending his 11-month record and Republican volunteers are going door to door canvassing likely voters. USA Today reports Walker’s office is trying to learn from the only two successful gubernatorial recalls in U.S. history. They believe California Gov. Gray Davis (2003) and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921 both started campaigning too late to save their jobs. “There’s this momentum that builds, and once it builds it’s very difficult for things to reverse,” David Schecter, a political scientist at Cal State Fresno, tells the newspaper.


At midnight tonight, opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will kick off efforts to recall him from office.

The group United Wisconsin intends to start gathering signatures needed to force a recall election at that time after filing paperwork with the state. A pajama-party rally is planned at the state capitol in Madison. Other groups are planning an anti-Walker rally at his home in Wauwatosa, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Organizers must gather more than 540,000 signatures by Jan. 17 to set a recall in motion. United Wisconsin says it will attempt to gather 600,000 to 700,000 to allow for leeway in case some signatures are not allowed.

To that effect, the state’s Republican Party will be watching. On Monday, GOP leaders announced they’ve started the new Recall Integrity Center, a website devoted to scrutinizing signatures, according to The Capitol Times. Voters are encouraged to submit videos, photos or other reports of signatures or aspects of the signature-gathering process they deem suspect.

Meanwhile, the Journal Sentinel reports Democrats are concerned Republicans will gather recall signatures under false pretenses – and then destroy them.

For what it’s worth, Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the electoral accountability board, notes that “fraudulently defacing or destroying election petitions is a felony.”

 


A state-by-state roundup of key election news from around the Midwest:

Mixed news in Ohio: Union supporters succeeded in striking down a sweeping collective-bargaining state law, rejecting the Issue 2 referendum by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. The result has been considered a rebuke of first-year Republican governor John Kasich and springboard for President Obama’s once-sagging numbers in Ohio.

Democrats should be reluctant to read too much optimism in the numbers, cautions The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. While Issue 2 failed, the lesser-known Issue 3 passed by an even wider margin. Issue 3, which proposed to prohibit the government from forcing participation in a health-care plan, won more than 66 percent of the ballots cast. It’s a sting delivered to Obama’s federal health-care law.

Implications of Michigan recall: State representative Paul Scott became the first Michigan office-holder to be recalled since 1983. He lost Tuesday’s recall election by eight-tenths of one percent, as 12,284 cast ballots for the recall and 12,087 against.

Scott had been targeted by the Michigan Education Association, according to our partner station Michigan Radio, because he supported budget cuts for K-12 schools and tenure-law revisions, and the state’s income tax extension to senior pensions. His recall is viewed as a warning sign to first-year Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Gary, Indiana breaks new ground: Karen Freeman-Wilson has called Gary, Indiana a “blighted steel town on Lake Michigan’s southern shore.” She’s going to get a chance to clean it up. Voters elected Freeman-Wilson as the city’s mayor on Tuesday. In doing so, she becomes the first black female mayor in Indiana state history. She tells the Northwest Indiana Times she’s already working to make Gary a safer, business-friendly city.

Regional outlook: Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard examines the impact of Tuesday’s elections on first-year governors across the Midwest. Will the momentum that swept Republican governors. Rick Snyder, John Kasich and Scott Walker into office now work against them?

She explains that it’s not entirely a partisan issue. But on Tuesday, union supporters that protested collective-bargaining limits won the day. Heading into 2012, they hold the Midwestern momentum.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Sales up at Ford, forecast down. Ford’s third-quarter sales rose 14.1 percent year over year to $33.1 billion, the company said Wednesday morning. But the automaker’s global production plan of 1.37 million vehicles is below the 1.44 million anticipated by analysts, and investors had sold off Ford shares in morning trading, according to the Detroit Free Press. The gap came as a result of “a lower outlook in South America, Asia Pacific and Europe,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote.

2. Cook County plans layoffs. Cook County executives unveiled a budget that called for more than 1,000 layoffs to help narrow a projected $315 million deficit, according to our partner station WBEZ. Saying “there’s been nothing easy about this,” board president Toni Preckwinkle said hospital funding and the county’s jail population would be reduced in additional savings measures. She is also trying to convince the county’s union workers to accept furloughs to save $40 million instead of layoffs.

3. Wisconsin public employee pay freeze ahead? Wisconsin state employees may face a pay freeze over the next two years if lawmakers support a proposal from Gov. Scott Walker. The new proposal comes months after Walker required public workers to pay more for their pensions and health insurance while also eliminating almost all collective bargaining. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports another change in the proposed legislation would award overtime only for actual hours worked, after a newspaper investigation revealed how prison guards gamed the overtime system to boost their pay.