MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Three potential candidates to run against Gov. Scott Walker in a recall fired up Democrats and union members who gathered Tuesday to learn how to collect the signatures necessary to force an election.
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey of Wausau, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said the damage Walker has done to the state is so severe, voters have no choice but to attempt a recall.
"What Scott Walker has done to our democracy here in Wisconsin is shameful," said Erpenbach, one of the 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois in February to delay a vote on Walker's proposal to essentially end collective bargaining for public workers.
Erpenbach and the others spoke to more than 100 volunteers who gathered at a recall training session organized by the Democratic Party. Similar events are planned in Stevens Points, Eau Claire, Appleton and Milwaukee.
Volunteers plan to start gathering signatures on Nov. 15. They will need to collect more than 540,000 valid signatures by Jan. 17 to force a recall election that likely would be sometime in the spring or summer.
In reaction to Tuesday's event, Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Brad Courtney issued a statement praising Walker's balancing of the state budget this year without raising taxes. He said Walker also has created a better economic environment for job creators.
Courtney said voters "are too smart to be distracted by the liberal lies" of Democrats and will stand with Walker against what he called "false momentum" against him.
In addition to the collective bargaining changes, Democratic speakers criticized other Walker initiatives including the new requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls and cuts made in state funding for public education.
"He has turned the state upside down," said Falk, who retired this year after 14 years as county executive. "He has pitted family members against family members, neighbor against neighbor."
Falk and Erpenbach have said they are considering possibly running against Walker. Obey said in an interview before the speech that he would prefer that retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl or Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in November, run in a recall.
Obey, 73, demurred when asked if he would consider running.
"Right now, my main purpose is to try to convince one of them to run and see to it that people remember there's a huge amount at stake and we cannot afford to have the opposition to the governor split in different directions," Obey said.
Kohl's spokesman has said he has no desire to run. Barrett has said he's focused on winning re-election as Milwaukee's mayor next April. The timing of that election and a potential recall, which could be close to then, may make it tricky if not impossible for Barrett to run.
Also speaking at Tuesday's event was Joe Parisi, a former state Assembly member and current Dane County executive, and Heather DuBois Bourenane of Sun Prairie, an outspoken Walker critic.