Pro-Trump Efforts To Recall Wisconsin Speaker Face Critical Deadline Thursday

The current campaign to recall the Wisconsin assembly speaker, Robin Vos, is the second such campaign this year.

Samantha Madar/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, file
Robin Vos during a press conference at the Wisconsin state capitol at Madison, February 15, 2023. Samantha Madar/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, file

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is set to decide whether an effort to recall the speaker of the state assembly, Robin Vos — the second such campaign — will be able to move forward.

The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission is expected to decide at a meeting Thursday whether petitioners have submitted enough valid signatures to hold a recall election against the state’s top Republican. The recall efforts came after Mr. Vos refused to impeach Wisconsin’s top election official. Since then, followers of President Trump, including a former Wisconsin supreme court justice, Michael Gableman, have been organizing in support of recalling Mr. Vos.

Followers of Trump proposed impeaching the elections commission administrator, Meagan Wolfe, after they were unable to garner sufficient support to fire Ms. Wolfe in the assembly. The assembly Republicans claimed in their proposed impeachment resolution against Ms. Wolfe that she was part of a conspiracy to rig the 2020 election against Trump, though they’ve not substantiated their claims. 

Ms. Wolfe does not directly make decisions about how to administer elections. Rather, she implements decisions made by a board of three Republicans and three Democrats.

Mr. Vos has declined to support impeaching Ms. Wolfe, though he has not expressed support for her. Rather, he’s said he will nominate a replacement if a court declares the office vacant, claiming that she is not in office “lawfully.”

“There’s no need to do an impeachment because she’s not there lawfully,” Mr. Vos said when the pressure to impeach ramped up last year. “We need to follow the law and see what the actual rulings are from the court.”

Mr. Vos is referencing an attempt by state Republicans to appoint their own election administrator by bypassing Democrats on the board, whose input is required for the board to make a nomination, and going directly to a vote in the Republican-controlled state senate.

Since 2021, when Mr. Vos refused to obey Trump’s request that he attempt to overturn the state’s election results, Trump has funded a primary challenger against Mr. Vos and has inspired recall efforts against him.

In 2022, Trump was vocal in supporting Mr. Vos’s removal, saying Mr. Vos “had 17 years to prove to Wisconsin residents that he has their best interest in mind” and that “I do not come close to supporting him.”

Those attempting to oust Mr. Vos claim that he has demonstrated “flagrant disrespect for his own constituents,” and a “lack of election integrity.”  

They also accuse him of “tacit support of the Chinese Communist Party,” citing his affiliation with the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, which critics say is affiliated with  the Chinese government. They also make other claims regarding alleged failure to act on issues like banning the purchase of farmland by Chinese nationals.

The claims of “flagrant disrespect” are specifically a reference to comments Mr. Vos made about the organizers behind the first recall campaign against him. He called them “whack jobs,” morons,” and “fraudsters.”

In order to mandate a recall election, the group organizing against Mr. Vos needs to submit 6,850 valid signatures from residents of Mr. Vos’s district. In late May, the group submitted some 9,000 signatures to the commission. However, Mr. Vos has challenged thousands of those signatures, saying that 2,000 were from outside Mr. Vos’s district and 350 were collected outside of the allowed window for petitioning. 

Mr. Vos also said that at least 400 people had signed the petition more than once and a Wisconsin Politics analysis found that some people had signed the petition as many as five times. “The Vos campaign has identified numerous fraudulent signatures, signers who were lied to about the purpose of the recall, and out-of-state felons who were brought in to circulate petition,” Mr. Vos’s campaign said in a filing.

One of the committees seeking to oust Mr. Vos, Racine Recall, has even tapped a retired general, Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, to cut a clip campaigning against Mr. Vos and has placed TV ads in support of their effort.

“Wisconsin you have a national security threat,” the retired general said in a video referencing alleged links between Mr. Vos and the Chinese government. “ It’s time to ensure our leaders place America first.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Vos’s only primary challenger in his district, Andrew Cegeilski, announced that he was dropping out of the race, with his campaign lasting about two weeks.

The apparent collapse of the Republican  anti-Vos organization does not, however, mean that Mr. Vos will not face a challenger backed by the recall organizers.

An independent candidate, Kelly Clark, is running against Mr. Vos in the general election and has ties to the recall organizers concerning Mr. Vos’s alleged failure to halt the purchasing of Wisconsin farmland by Chinese investors.

“I want to talk to you about an urgent issue regarding Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Speaker Vos is resorting to lies and scare tactics to suppress the First Amendment rights of our friends who are actively working on his recall effort,” Ms. Clark said in a radio ad posted by Racine Recall on Facebook.

Ms. Clark’s presence in the race could potentially split the vote on the Republican side, giving the Democrats an opening. It’s not clear whether this would matter in a general election, however. In 2022, Mr. Vos won with 73 percent of the vote and the Democratic nominee that year had only 15 percent in the election.

While the efforts to unseat Mr. Vos by Trump’s followers forge on, Trump himself has become less vocal about his interest in unseating Mr. Vos ahead of the Republican National Convention at Milwaukee.

Mr. Vos in turn had vowed to pledge to work “as hard as I can” to prevent Trump from winning the Republican nomination. Yet since it became clear Trump would be the nominee, Mr. Vos has endorsed the former president.

Mr. Vos told reporters, “It’s going to be a choice between two men” and whether “you think the policies that Joe Biden has put in place over the course of the past four years are better for the country, or were times better under Donald Trump?”

Racine Recall and Mr. Vos’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Another committee formed to challenge Mr. Vos, Recall Vos, also did not respond to a request for comment.

The New York Sun

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