Recalling a governor is rare -- trying to, not so much

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Story highlights

  • Only two U.S. governors have been ousted by recall elections
  • Wisconsin voters decide Tuesday whether to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker
  • Every California governor since 1968 has been targeted by recall attempts

Many have tried, especially in California, but few have managed to successfully oust a U.S. governor through a recall election.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker faces that possibility Tuesday, due to Democratic outrage over steps last year by Walker and his Republican colleagues in the state legislature to weaken public unions.

If Wisconsin voters toss out Walker in favor of Milwaukee's Democratic mayor, Tom Barrett, it will be only the third such electoral ousting of a governor in American history.

North Dakota kicked out Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921, and California got rid of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, according to the Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics.

Gubernatorial recall efforts seem to be a state pastime in California. Every governor elected since 1968, including Ronald Reagan, were targeted by recall attempts, the center's website says.

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In total, 19 states permit recall elections for governors and other state officials, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and, of course, Wisconsin and California, the center says on its website.

The District of Columbia also permits recall elections, and Virginia allows recall by trial, according to the center.

    In Tuesday's balloting, Wisconsin voters also will decide whether to recall Walker's lieutenant governor and four Republican state senators.

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