After a brief campaign that followed a more than yearlong fight over union rights and the state's cash-strapped budget, voters in a narrowly divided Wisconsin began casting ballots Tuesday on whether to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The recall effort against Walker began bubbling last year, shortly after the former Milwaukee County executive successfully pushed through his union rights proposal, which also requires most state workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.
Walker said that's what was needed to balance the state's budget. But Democrats and labor leaders saw it as a political tactic designed to gut the power of his political opposition. Enraged Democrats and labor activists gathered more than 900,000 signatures in support of the recall.
Walker faces a rematch with Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom he beat in 2010 by 5 percentage points, as he tries to become the first U.S. governor to successfully fend off a recall.
"I've been villainized for a year and a half. We've faced a year and a half of assaults on us. My opponent has no plans other than to attack us," Walker said at a campaign stop Monday, claiming that his agenda has put the state on the right economic track.
Responded Barrett, "Gov. Walker has divided the state, but we will never allow him to conquer the middle class. This started out as a grassroots movement and it's going to end as one."
Walker and his wife, Tonette, were among those waiting in line to vote in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa as polls opened at 7 a.m. His Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett cast his vote at the Milwaukee French Immersion school. Officials reported long lines at many Milwaukee voting centers, and state elections officials predict 60 percent to 65 percent of eligible voters will turn out.
William Van Wagner, a 21-year-old student in Madison, waited in a line of about 30 people to cast his ballot for Walker.
"It's pretty clear that his policies have worked for us and I'm not big on recall as a piece of political action," Van Wagner said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read Cal Thomas' commentary on the recall, "On, Wisconsin!"