MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Wisconsin Democrats have amassed enough support to force the first recall election of a Republican state senator who voted for a law that reduces public sector union powers, an organizer said on Friday.
More than 20,000 residents from Republican state Senator Dan Kapanke's district around La Crosse, Wisconsin, signed petitions seeking a recall election, said Pat Scheller, who organized the committee.
"There certainly has been a great groundswell of involvement and commitment," Scheller said in a telephone interview. "A lot of people are very passionate about this."
A Kapanke representative could not be reached for comment.
The law signed by new Republican Governor Scott Walker last month touched off weeks of pro-union protests in Madison that put Wisconsin at the center of debate over legislative efforts in several states to limit union powers.
Democrats vowed at the time to press for the recall of some of the 18 Republicans who voted for the new law. Democrats would need to succeed in recalling three Republican senators to take a majority of the Senate and reverse the union vote.
But another factor is that Conservative groups have started recall efforts against Democratic senators who fled the state for three weeks to delay a vote on the measure. In all, there are recall efforts underway against 16 senators, eight from each party.
Wisconsin state lawmakers must have been in office for at least a year before they can be recalled. Walker, who was elected in November, cannot face a recall election for a year.
It would be the fifth recall election of a state legislator in the history of Wisconsin if the petitions due to be delivered to Madison on Friday are certified. The state has never had more than one recall election at a time.
Under state law covering recalls, a committee has 60 days to gather signatures after it is formed. Scheller's group believes it far exceeded the 15,588 signatures required in less than a month.
The state board has up to a month to review the petitions, during which Kapanke is allowed to challenge signatures. Decisions can also be appealed to the state courts.
(Writing by David Bailey; additional reporting by Jeff Mayers; Editing by Greg McCune)