The Republican Party of Wisconsin’s effort to place “spoiler” candidates on the ballot to force Democratic primaries in the recall elections started with an off-hand comment at a Lacrosse County Republican event. It has quickly become the official policy of the state party. Top leaders now defend the practices, saying there’s nothing cynical about it, nothing wrong with it, and in fact that the recalls themselves are the cynical policy.

And now, we have an actual candidate, a former Republican county leader, planning on running as a Democrat in the recall election.

Republicans have found a spoiler candidate to challenge Rep. Jennifer Shilling in this summer’s recall election, which would force a Democratic primary and extend the campaign by nearly a month.

James Smith, until recently a member of the La Crosse County GOP’s executive committee, says he is running as a protest candidate.

Smith, a regular fixture at local labor protests this spring where he held signs touting his support for Gov. Scott Walker, said he resigned his party leadership position Monday before announcing his candidacy. He said he does not plan on campaigning aggressively but wants to protest the recall process.

“I want to bring light on the issue that 22,000 signatures can pretty much overturn an election where even the loser got 40,000 votes,” he said Tuesday.

I’m a little surprised a registered Republican and a Republican county official can just run in a Democratic primary, but those are the rules in Wisconsin, apparently. Smith will have to collect a number of signatures by Tuesday, June 14, to get on the recall ballot, but it’s not a high bar – I’ve seen anywhere between 400 and 800 signatures reported. He’s the first candidate to come forward, but since the Republican Party of Wisconsin has basically admitted that they’re managing the whole spoiler candidate idea, I would imagine there would be antecedents in some if not all of the six recall elections against Republican state Senators.

So this would make the July 12 recalls the primaries, with the general election on August 9. Recalls against Democratic Senators will happen July 19 if they are approved today by the Government Accountability Board. This would keep the state Senate in Republican hands one month longer, allowing them to continue to implement Scott Walker’s radical agenda.

And there’s another element to this. Wisconsin has open primaries. Registered Republicans can vote in Democratic primaries, and vice-versa. So the Democrat, in this case Jennifer Shilling, will have to run a real campaign in the primary to stave off any “Operation Chaos” from Republicans who just try to elect the spoiler candidate in the primary. Not to mention the fact that she and her Democratic colleagues will probably face massive corporate spending to drive up her negatives in the primary, buying time for the Republican Senators for the general election and wounding the Democratic challengers in the process.

This is a particularly dirty trick, and we shouldn’t really expect any less from the most craven batch of Republicans I’ve ever seen.