NEW: The Wisconsin Democratic Party says it has collected more than 1 million signatures
Gov. Scott Walker drew the ire of labor unions and public school teachers last year
State Democratic Party chair: The "impressive number" is "beyond any challenges"
"The overwhelming majority of the people in the state chose not to sign," Walker says
More than a million people have signed a petition to recall Wisconsin’s governor, the state’s Democratic Party said Tuesday.
That’s nearly twice the 540,208 signatures required to seek a recall of first-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who drew the ire of labor unions and public school teachers after he stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
State Democratic Party officials said they would submit the signatures by close of business Tuesday. The officials also said they would turn in more than the required number of signatures needed for recall elections for the state’s Republican lieutenant governor and three state senators.
The Wisconsin elections board will review the recall petitions.
“I think it’s going to be a very impressive number that we hand in, beyond any challenge that this election is going to happen,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate told CNN affiliate WTMJ Monday.
Walker’s administration gained national attention last year when he, along with Republican legislators, pushed forward a bill to cut state workers’ collective bargaining rights. That bill was signed into law in March, following weeks of protests at the state capitol building in Madison.
This would be the first time in Wisconsin’s history that a governor has faced recall.
In fact, there have only been two successful gubernatorial recalls in United States history, that of California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and that of North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921.
The more difficult battle will begin once the signatures are approved, and the state schedules a recall election. Both sides will be well financed and ready to battle, said Kenneth Goldstein, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Walker was undaunted by the recall effort, WTMJ reported.
“The optimist in me looks at that and says: the overwhelming majority of the people in the state chose not to sign that and I earned the trust of the majority the last time. My hope is I will earn their trust again,” he said.
Walker set off a firestorm in January 2010 when he moved to curtail the collective bargaining rights of most state employees. With majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Walker and his GOP allies voted to limit raises for public employees except police and firefighters to the rate of inflation, bar unions from deducting dues from workers’ paychecks and force them to hold a new certification vote every year.
Republicans insisted it was necessary to control the skyrocketing costs of public employee benefits and close the budget shortfall. Democrats argued it was an attempt to gut public-sector labor unions, one of their core constituencies.
The public brouhaha all but shut down the Wisconsin state legislature for weeks. It also drew protesters by the tens of thousands, among them union supporters and public employees, who called the measure an attack on workers. A group of Democratic lawmakers left the state for some time in an effort to not allow a quorum for a vote.
Eventually, the law was passed and signed by Walker in March.
The state Supreme Court upheld the law in June but the battle birthed a storm of political activism that led to the recall effort.
Read more about this story from CNN affiliate WTMJ.