Effort to force a recall election of Gov. Tony Evers fails to gather enough signatures

MADISON – A week after insisting she had enough signatures, the woman organizing a recall campaign against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday her effort had failed.

“It is with a heavy heart we announce that after proofing and what came in over the weekend we have fallen short. We do not have enough signatures to turn in,” organizer Misty Polewczynski wrote in a Facebook post. 

She did not say how many signatures she had gathered. She would have needed 670,000 to force a recall election early next year. The same amount was needed to recall Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

The signatures would have been due on Tuesday, but none will be turned in, Polewczynski wrote. 

The disclosure came a week after Polewczynski told reporters she had more than enough signatures to recall Evers and Barnes.

At the time, she raised questions about her credibility because she wrote on Facebook that she planned to “make up some crap” when talking to a journalist. In another post, she told recall supporters not to pay attention to figures she had provided to the Racine Journal Times. 

“Sometimes any press is better than no press,” she wrote then.

The recall effort faced blowback from Republicans who said they should be focused on President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, not a long-shot recall of a governor who is polling well.  

State law allows Evers to raise unlimited sums from donors while he is under the threat of a recall. He took advantage of that to raise money for a recent ad that attacks Republican lawmakers for their lack of plans to deal with COVID-19.

Recall supporters disputed that their effort would take resources away from helping Trump. 

“It’s not like I was giving my time, money, blood, sweat and tears to the Republican Party,” said Robin Falk of Plover, who gathered recall signatures last month outside a Trump rally in Mosinee. 

Polewczynski launched the recall effort in August because she didn’t believe Evers did enough in response to looting and arson in Kenosha following a police shooting. She also criticized him for shutting down the state this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

When Polewczynski said last week she had enough signatures for the recalls, she would not say how many she had. She did not respond to requests at the time to provide photos of the boxes of petitions she said she had collected. 

Last week Polewczynski said she was having trouble obtaining petitions being held for her by the Republican Party of Marinette County.

Polewczynski said Betty Hensel, the chairwoman of the county party, refused to hand over petitions dropped off at Hensel’s office and threatened to destroy them.

Hensel disputed some of Polewczynski’s claims, saying she dropped off many of the petitions she had to a member of Polewczynski’s group at a bar in Amberg.

Hensel said she was keeping petitions collected at a county fair because she wanted her name removed from the petitions as a circulator. Removing her name would prevent the signatures she gathered from being counted.

“My name is on them as circulator and I don’t believe they should be circulated,” Hensel said. Hensel said she put her name on them voluntarily but later changed her mind.

Hensel said she was waiting for advice from Andrew Hitt, the chairman of the state Republican Party. A spokesman for the state party did not immediately respond to questions.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.