BARABOO - With his office on the line in a recall election set for July 12, incumbent Republican District 14 state Sen. Luther Olsen said he is open to participating in at least three debates with his challenger, Democratic Assemblyman Fred Clark of Baraboo.
On Monday, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board gave final approval to recall petitions against Olsen, R-Ripon; District 32 state Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse; and District 18 state Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac. Their recall elections are set for Tuesday, July 12, according to a statement on the GAB website.
Clark, D-Baraboo, announced in April he is challenging Olsen in the recall election.
Also on Monday, Clark issued an invitation to Olsen suggesting the two men hold at least three debates. They should be held in a manner that is fair to both candidates, he said.
On Monday evening, after what he said was a long day in the Legislature, Olsen told the Baraboo News Republic he had just learned of Clark's suggestion for a series of debates. He said he is open to the idea but needs time to think about it and consult with Clark about issues such as dates and locations.
The three senators whose recall elections won approval Monday are among six Republican lawmakers and three Democrats targeted by recall petition campaigns in recent months, according to The Associated Press.
The Republicans were targeted for recall after supporting Gov. Scott Walker's legislation restricting the bargaining rights of unionized public workers. Supporters of Walker's proposal targeted the Democrats after that party's state senators left Wisconsin for three weeks in an unsuccessful attempt to throw a monkey wrench into Walker's effort.
Members of the Committee to Recall Olsen gathered more than 22,300 valid signatures on their recall petitions, according to GAB documents. They needed just more than 14,700 for a recall election to win a nod from the board.
Clark said he has spoken with Baraboo School Board Vice President Doug Mering about possibly holding a forum with the help of the Baraboo schools. He expressed an interest in cooperating with other community groups within Senate District 14 in organizing debates as well.
Olsen said he agrees holding debates with the participation of various community groups is appropriate.
Late Monday evening, Olsen said he didn't have any comment on what sort of issues the candidates might debate.
In a statement acknowledging the GAB's approval of the recall election, Olsen said he was ready to face off with Clark over who can best serve District 14 constituents.
"I look forward to comparing my message of lower taxes, less spending and more jobs to Fred Clark's record of higher taxes, more spending and less jobs," Olsen said. "We need to get Wisconsin back to work and that is exactly what I will continue to work toward."
Clark said voters will see a strong contrast between himself and Olsen on the issue of supporting education. Proposed cuts to successful Wisconsin programs such as Badger Care medical insurance for low-income people and Senior Care for the elderly are issues the public should hear debated, he said.
Information about Wisconsin voter registration, elections, political candidates and their finances may be found on the Government Accountability Board Web site - gab.wi.gov.
Clark said representatives of any community groups interested in hosting a forum or debate are welcome to write his campaign address - PO Box 383, Baraboo, Wi, 53913.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.