Walker recall in rural Wisconsin, sent in by a reader:
Located in far northwestern Wisconsin, Washburn is a big county with a small population. The county as a whole has a projected population of only 15,911 for the 2010 census. In the 2010 gubernatorial election, Scott Walker won by 600 votes – almost ten percent of the 6,600 votes cast.
It is also a poor county, spread out and very rural. About 20 percent of its population was enrolled in BadgerCare or BadgerCare Plus as of October. The only towns of any size – Shell Lake and Spooner – are mostly stops on the way to bigger cities in other counties.
The Recall Scott Walker headquarters for the county is located in Spooner, a town of about 2,600 people, and the largest municipality in the county. It is a small, donated camper parked on a donated portion of a family’s residential lot along the main highway through town.
Volunteers staff the trailer for two two-hour shifts each weekday, and a four-hour shift on Saturdays. They wear orange vests and stand by the fence, near a donated, professionally-made “Sign here” banner. Now that it’s getting dark early, someone else donated old-fashioned floodlights to keep the station visible.
“We lay them in the snow and point them up,” says Sue Hansen, the head of the Washburn County Democrats, and coordinator of the county’s recall effort. “It works pretty well.”
Hansen, the former Washburn County postmaster retired now after 32 years in the service, isn’t taking money from the Democrats because she didn’t want the effort to be about the Democratic Party. As a result, she couldn’t rent an actual office, and the entire effort relies on volunteers and donations.
She says even their radio ad was donated by an individual volunteer, and they’ve had an offer of donated mittens from someone on Facebook.
“It’s just individuals going around and doing things,” she said. “It’s entirely grassroots.
On a good day, Hansen says, she’s “thrilled” to collect 50 signatures county-wide, and their goal for petition collection is, compared to numbers from more populous counties, modest: Hansen said she’s aiming for 3,533, the precise number of votes Walker got from Washburn County in 2010. So far, they’re about halfway. “We’ll just keep working and see if it happens,” Sue says.
Hansen says that, in the meantime, Walker’s union-busting in February energized the progressives of Washburn county. She says in an ordinary year, residents of small towns like Spooner have kept their politics more to themselves, part of the dynamics of small town life.
“People have to get along,” she says. “You’re all in the Lion’s Club together, you all have a goal, you work together toward that goal.” But now, she says, “closet liberals” upset by Walker’s policies have been coming out of the woodwork.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon,” she says. “In February, our Democratic party membership went from 60 to 80, and that’s significant here, when you’re dealing with this population.”
By now, Wiegand says she has personally collected about 50 signatures. And, she says two people who said they voted for Walker have signed her petitions, prompted by his actions to reduce the power of the DNR to protect the environment, collective bargaining changes, and tax breaks he’s given to the rich and corporations. “They said they never thought it would be like this,” Wiegand says.
Hansen says similar stories of Republicans signing petitions keep coming her way, and have made her hopeful. “Every time I see people, I hear a new story,” she says. “Just today I talked to a woman volunteer whose 93-year-old father-in-law, former military, Republican all his life, said, ‘they would never have his vote again.’”
It is also a poor county, spread out and very rural. About 20 percent of its population was enrolled in BadgerCare or BadgerCare Plus as of October
That can’t be possible. Rural counties where white people live aren’t poor and no one in those places relies on government aid. Ask Newt Gingrich.