Staring down a recall effort targeting herself and Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch spoke out this weekend against several issues that some Capitol watchers feel could hamper the Republicans' efforts to maintain control of the executive branch of state government.
Kleefisch spoke on Saturday after a ribbon-cutting event at a new Armed Forces Reserve Center on Madison's north side. While she didn't mention the ongoing recall effort, she did talk about disputed federal jobs figures and said she didn't expect the ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee to have any impact during a potential campaign.
She said U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which indicate Wisconsin added about 14,000 jobs last year, were wrong. She said Wisconsin has gained about 20,000 jobs in 2011, and Walker's promise of 250,000 jobs over four years in office wasn't out of reach.
"We have said from the very beginning that those jobs numbers would be backloaded," she said. "As you recover from a recession, any economics expert would tell you, you recover slowly and then you gain on that momentum."
But she predicted that her opponents will gather enough signatures by Jan. 17 to force her to campaign again for her job.
"I don't see any reason why they wouldn't get the signatures they pledged to get for both the governor and myself," Kleefisch said. "We said from the very beginning that we expect to go back on the ballot, but we expect to win reelection."
In McFarland, recall volunteer Peter Sobol was roadside Saturday, collecting signatures for one final weekend. He said the number of people stopping by to sign has dwindled over the nearly two month petition process.
"We have no idea how close we are to getting the number of signatures that we need," he said. "We were told when we broke half a million (in the Walker recall). Since then, they've kept it under wraps, which is a good thing -- we need the sense of urgency right up until the end."
Recall organizers haven't publicly announced how many signatures they've collected since mid-December, telling supporters they'd gathered more than 507,000. They need 540,208 signatures against both Walker and Kleefisch, although they could successfully force one back to the ballot without the other.
Organizers haven't announced numbers in the Kleefisch effort.
The ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee -- a probe that Walker said he asked for -- won't have standing during a recall campaign, Kleefisch said. As part of the investigation, authorities allege wrongdoing against former Walker aides when the governor was the Milwaukee County executive.
"That's the past," Kleefisch said. "I think the governor, as then-county executive, had some concerns and turned them over, and obviously, there was some follow-through done. I don't think that has a lot to do with what we're going through right now."
On the street, recall volunteer Peter Sobol said his group will turn in their signatures to the larger United Wisconsin effort on Tuesday. After state election officials receive them Jan. 17, the process will turn to verifying each signature is legitimate. Recall campaigns would then take place, with elections possible for late spring.
"We have to hope that several of the people who've quietly expressed interest in running against Walker will step forward. We certainly have to hope the Legislature doesn't stay Republican after the next election," Sobol said. "Otherwise, he's going to turn the state into a smoking pile of rubble."
That Armed Forces Reserve Center that Kleefisch spoke at replaces a number of older facilities around the state which the government closed to cut costs.
Construction on the new building began more than two years ago and is already home to 740 Wisconsin reservists.