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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 15.0° F  Fair
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Walker recall supporters hold out hope for Feingold
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Jeff Plantz: 'We need to really finish this deal.'
Credit:Nayantara Mukherji

It is 7:30 p.m., and Jeff Plantz is standing atop an escalator in Monona Terrace. He holds a simple white sheet of paper on which he has written in black ink "Come on Russ please!"

As people exit the Recall Victory Party on Tuesday evening, celebrating the collection of over 1 million signatures to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, they cheer him on and give him high-fives. Some even sigh dreamily.

"You really think he'll run?" one woman shouts as she boards the next escalator. She pauses, considering the possibility: "I really hope he will!"

"Maybe we should start collecting signatures again," another person suggests.

Plantz is not alone in his hope that former Sen. Russ Feingold will run against Walker if a recall election is certified. In fact, Feingold seems to be a crowd favorite.

Carolyn Miller, an elementary school teacher, shows me a slip of paper with Feingold's contact information. Despite the fact that Feingold has indicated he will not run for office in 2012, she is planning to write to him tonight.

Joan Grosse, who serves on the board of the South Central Federation of Labor, is also pinning her hopes to Feingold.

"We need somebody who's over-the-top excellent," Grosse says. "We have to pressure Feingold to run. We can't mess around. We can't go through all of this, and then have a candidate who can't win. I think with enough pressure Feingold will run, and I think the pressure we have to put on him is that it's [his] moral responsibility to this state."

Although, there is no other unanimous crowd favorite for Democratic Party nominee for governor, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) also seems to have racked up a number of supporters.

"He's really a maverick," says Ken Weaver, a Department of Transportation employee from Deerfield, in praise of Erpenbach. "He's always been in labor's corner."

Joan Berg, a retired nurse from Waukesha, agrees.

"He's very articulate, and I think he's aware of all of the concerns of the residents of Wisconsin," she says. "With the right publicity, I think he can beat Walker, because he can present all our concerns very easily."

"Plus, he's pretty good looking!" she quips.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, also drew in several supporters, like Maxwell Raboin, an employee at the Willy Street Co-op.

"I'd love to see Peter Barca run," Raboin says. "I have a lot of respect for the man, and I think he tells it like it is. I think he would make a great governor... he's a very honest man, and he cares about people. Even if you don't live in his constituency, he still cares. Kathleen Falk would be great too.

Barca, who attended the event, said he is considering running against Walker.

"I haven't ruled it out," he says. "I'm analyzing -- we'll see how things transpire in the next couple of weeks here."

Other crowd suggestions included: Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison); Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee); Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee); Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville); former U.S. House Appropriations Chair Dave Obey; Milwaukee mayor and 2010 Walker opponent Tom Barrett; Madison firefighter and union leader,Mahlon Mitchell; and even the former Madison mayor, Dave Cieslewicz.

But for now, Feingold is still at the top of most peoples' lists.

"We need to really finish this deal. We need to finish it right," Plantz says, as a passing couple high-fives him. "We need to put up a strong candidate and Russ is the only one who can do it... the Democrats are way too nice. It's time to get unnice."

But he checks himself to make sure he is not implying that Feingold is "un-nice."

"Let's just say he's savvy," he says with a smile.

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