By Todd Richmond
MADISON — Conservatives launched recall efforts Monday against two state senators who opposed a bill that would have helped a Florida company open a huge iron mine in Wisconsin’s north woods, saying the duo cost the state jobs.
Shirl LaBarre, of Hayward, filed paperwork with the state Government Accountability Board authorizing her to start collecting recall signatures against Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar. Dan Curran, of Dodgeville, filed papers with the board authorizing him to create a committee to explore recalling Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center. Both LaBarre and Curran are affiliated with the Citizens For Responsible Government Network, which works to elect conservative candidates.
Jauch said in a statement that CRG didn’t care about northern Wisconsin.
“They just want to make sure they own the politics and control the person who represents the north,” Jauch said. “It is obvious that CRG doesn’t want good government. While the public yearns for bi-partisan cooperation this extreme group seems to condemn it.”
Schultz, for his part, said he voted his conscience and he believed most people in his district were behind him.
“I think most legislators these days are fairly used to the notion of being recalled,” he said. “I’ve represented the people out there for a long time. I think I know them well. I think they know me well. I’ll make my case like I always have.”
The filings underscore the lingering anger over the mining bill’s failure in the state Senate and the recall-happy climate in Madison, where a legislator’s next move might mean his or her job. Democrats ousted two Republican senators from office in recall elections last year over Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious plan stripping public workers of their ability to collectively bargain and are trying to force multiple Republicans, including Walker himself, into recalls this summer.
The mining bill would have reworked Wisconsin’s permitting process to help Gogebic Taconite open a giant iron mine just south of Lake Superior in Jauch’s district. The company claimed the project would create hundreds of jobs for economically repressed northwestern Wisconsin and Republicans touted the bill as their signature job-creation legislation this past session. Environmentalists came out in force against the plan, saying the mine would destroy one of the last pristine regions in the state.
The bill bogged down in the Senate this month. Republicans held a one-vote majority in the chamber at the time. Schultz, a moderate, joined with Jauch and other minority Democrats in opposing the measure.
Jauch and Schultz both complained the bill would have eliminated public challenges to preliminary permit decisions and jeopardized the environment. Together they introduced their own legislation, but GOP leaders refused to consider it and instead offered to make a number of concessions that they hoped would bring Schultz back into the fold. Schultz didn’t budge, and the bill died when the Senate adjourned for the session Thursday.
Gogebic Taconite officials have since said they were abandoning their plans for the state. Last week the company notified state regulators it would withdraw its exploration license.
LaBarre and Curran marched into the GAB offices Monday morning with the paperwork, a sign that read “mining is our history, mining is our culture, mining is our future” and a giant cardboard check made for $70,000 made out to a fictitious character named Joe Ferrous. The check was stamped with a faux order from Jauch ordering the bank to stop payment.
“People are very angry about this in the northland,” said LaBarre, who runs a plumbing business with her husband and who unsuccessfully ran for an Assembly seat in 2008 and 2010. “Sen. Jauch did not listen to the majority of his constituents and we’ve had it. … He threw us under the bus.”
LaBarre would need 15,270 names to force Jauch into a recall election. She has 61 days to collect them, starting Monday.
Schutlz’s opponents would need 14,545 signatures to recall him.
“We’re looking for jobs in Wisconsin,” said Curran, a retired salesman. “We feel it was a vote because they didn’t want to give credit to Gov. Walker for (creating) jobs.”
Walker has promised to create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term, a pledge that could easily become a liability on the campaign trail if he can’t deliver.
The governor told reporters Monday during a news conference in Milwaukee that Republicans tried to compromise with Jauch and Schultz, but to no avail. He added that he’s getting tired of recall talk.
“I’d like us just to get to a point where we don’t have to worry about recalls,” Walker said, “and focus on how do we move our state forward.”