Volunteers walked boxes of Walker recall signatures from a U-Haul to the offices of the Government Accountability Board.
There had to be an event planner involved at some point.
First there was the buildup: Organizers of the campaign to recall Gov. Scott Walker kept mum for weeks about the total number of signatures collected.
Then there were the successive news briefings for media on Tuesday with embargoed conditions (shame on you, Bloomberg, for jumping the gun).
And then there was the theatrical procession of volunteers from around the state carrying more than 1 million signatures from a U-Haul truck to the state elections board on East Washington Avenue.
The box-by-box delivery was dramatic and deliberate. The first 72 boxes were carried by recall supporters from each of the state's counties who sported nametags with their county of origin. It was an effective refutation of any lingering claims that liberals from Dane and Milwaukee counties were the driving force behind the recall effort.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch the spectacle despite the cold and whipping winds. People brought their dogs clad in sweaters and booties, their musical instruments and their singing voices to cheer those dropping boxes off at the third-floor offices of the Government Accountability Board.
Recall supporter Kay Hansen, representing Brown County, enjoyed her celebratory walk. "It was exhilarating, it was awesome, it was tremendous!" she said.
The recall party Tuesday night at Monona Terrace Convention Center could have been anticlimactic, but so many people showed up that a larger room was needed. Ultimately there was still standing room only in the 4,500-capacity ballroom.
Some of the Democratic senators who fled the state in February to delay a vote on Walker's controversial collective bargaining proposal -- which sparked the recall effort -- were there, including Bob Jauch of Poplar, Chris Larson of Milwaukee, Mark Miller of Monona and Tim Cullen of Janesville (a potential Walker challenger). So were several of the other potential Democratic candidates for governor.
First up to speak was Kevin Straka, board chair of United Wisconsin, which spearheaded the recall drive. "You are amazing," he told the crowd. "We made history today, people!"
The recall effort is indeed historic. If an election is certified, it will be the first time a Wisconsin governor is recalled. Only two other governors have ever been recalled in the United States.
The number of petitions gathered also breaks records, according to data compiled by the state Democratic Party. More than 46% of the Wisconsin electorate signed a petition to recall Walker. When California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003, 23.4% of the electorate signed; 31.8% of voters signed when North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier was recalled in 1921.
More recently, 32% of voters in Ohio signed petitions to overturn a new law that, among other things, curtailed collective bargaining rights for public employees.
The number of signatures collected in Wisconsin seemed to surprise political veterans and nascent activists alike.
"I honestly didn't think we'd get 1 million signatures," Julie Wells, a forklift operator from Fort Atkinson who signed the papers launching the recall drive, told the crowd at Monona Terrace Tuesday night.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, agreed: "We have exceeded expectations."
Supporters said the massive numbers of signatures collected make a recall election against Walker inevitable. The governor, in a statement Tuesday, seemed to agree.
"I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget, and hold the line on taxes," he said. "In my first year in office, we did just that by eliminating a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes; all while the state added thousands of new jobs."
The focus will now turn to who will face Walker on the ballot. It's talk some Democratic Party officials want to put off as long as possible -- at least publicly -- but the "dance," as one Democratic lawmaker put it, has already begun.
Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk was the first Wednesday morning to clarify her intentions to run against Walker.
"One million Wisconsinites signed recall petitions in an unprecedented and inspiring show of solidarity and determination," Falk said. "Things are not working here, and we must, we can, and we will do better."
More and more it looks like there will be a Democratic primary. "I think a primary could be advantageous," said Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate at the media briefing Tuesday. "Historically it's been advantageous."
A primary might, of course, sap resources that could instead be funneled into a general election bid against Walker. It could also give the governor a head start on opposition research if things turn ugly among primary contenders. But Tate suggested that would not be the case.
"I think it will be mostly a positive campaign focused on Scott Walker's failures."
A primary would also prevent Walker for now from directing the unlimited funds he is able to raise into a single offensive against one candidate.
"The incumbent always likes to know who the opponent will be," says UW political science professor Barry Burden. "That way they can plan the counterattack."
To that point, Republican Party of Wisconsin executive director Stephan Thompson wasted no time responding to Falk's declaration of candidacy, deriding her "distinguished career as a government lawyer suing businesses and repeatedly losing statewide elections."
If a primary were to be held, the special election would be just four weeks later. "That is a really short time to turn around and pull the party together," says Burden. "In a regular election, the party has three or four months to get organized and rally around the nominee."
The date of any election will depend on how long it takes for the Government Accountability Board to verify the 540,208 signatures needed to trigger a recall election against Walker. Critical will be the number of legal challenges made to signatures.
GAB employees, along with hired temporary workers, need to vet not only Walker recall petitions but signatures submitted Tuesday to recall five other Republicans: Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (845,000); Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau (20,600); Pam Galloway of Wausau (21,000); Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls (21,000); and Van Wanggaard of Racine (24,000). All of these petition drives collected more than the required number of signatures.
The Government Accountability Board, by law, has 31 days to review recall petitions, but it has said it will almost certainly need more time.
Likely complicating matters will be new software the GAB is implementing, in response to a court ruling, to check for duplicative and fraudulent signatures.
This latest development worries recall supporters who would like to see the GAB find the first 540,208 valid signatures and consider the matter done.
"The process before the GAB as it's existed for decades has been straightforward," attorney Jeremy Levinson, who represents the recall committees, told reporters Tuesday. "It reviews petitions to see if there are enough signatures" to trigger a recall.
"It's critical that the GAB not stand in the way," Levinson added.
But Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the GAB, was not making any promises about how long the process would take at a Tuesday news conference. In fact, he said he might ask Dane County Circuit Court for an open-ended extension to review the petitions.
"We... are not sure we will give an exact time," he said.
Kennedy said the agency cannot simply "stop counting" at the minimum number of signatures required to trigger a recall election.
"That is not the way we have reviewed petitions in the past, and there is no legal precedent for doing it," he said.
Calls to recall Walker date to February 2011, when the governor, barely a month after he took office, suddenly announced his plans to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public workers. He refused to back down, even as tens of thousands of people flooded the Capitol in protest.
It was during these demonstrations that organizers began collecting a database of residents who supported recalling Walker.
United Wisconsin continued to collect names over the Internet. When the group started gathering signatures on Nov. 15, it was able to start with a database of 200,000 residents who had signed the group's online pledge to recall Walker.
Tate, on Tuesday night, gave credit to United Wisconsin volunteers for sparking the recall campaign.
"They were the driving force behind the recall effort. I'm so proud to share the stage with them."