Yesterday we looked at the potential responses from Democrats in Wisconsin to the dirty trick from Republicans, who plan to run “spoiler” candidates in the recall elections to force primaries and move the general recall elections out to August. Democrats had a couple options, ranging from taking the high road to retaliating with spoiler candidates of their own. The final decision reflected mostly a high road approach. Democrats will not run “spoiler” Republicans in the recalls, to force the Republican incumbents into primaries. They will, however, run placeholder candidates in the Democratic primaries, which regularizes the schedule for the recall elections. Here’s the statement from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate:
“The unprecedented Republican manipulation of these recall elections has compelled a number of people to urge a level playing field by running fake candidates in GOP primaries.
“We cannot and will not stoop to the Republicans’ level by encouraging candidates to lie about their party affiliation, or recommending that people try to deceive voters. We never have done that, and won’t start now. This is something that every single one of our six challengers has said they adamantly oppose. Fred Clark, Jess King, Shelly Moore, Nancy Nusbaum, Jen Shilling and Sandy Pasch — along with Senator Miller — all contacted the party over the last 24 hours to make it crystal clear this was absolutely the wrong tactic.
“At the same time, these phony GOP primary candidacies have in essence allowed the Republicans to seize the ability to call these elections at a date of their choosing. They can pick and choose which sham primaries to force. That’s wrong. Selecting an election day is a responsibility that should fall to an independent, nonpartisan agency looking out for the people of Wisconsin — not to a political party gaming the system for partisan gain. This transparent GOP conspiracy has cheated the people of protections against such dirty tricks.
“That is why we must guarantee these primary and general election dates move forward. The only way to do that in the face of these deplorable Republican tactics is by ensuring Democratic primaries with placeholders.
“This approach will keep the Republicans honest – an increasingly difficult task given the stunts they’ve pulled. It sends a clear statement that the GOP attempts to exploit the political process won’t be tolerated. It also ensures a much fairer process than what Republicans have concocted with their dirty tricks, as well as reduces confusion among voters about when recall elections will take place.
So there will be a deliberate schedule for the recalls. Here it is:
July 12: Primary elections for the six recalls of Republican state Senators.
July 19: Primary elections for the three recalls of Democratic state Senators.
August 9: General elections for the six recalls of Republican state Senators.
August 16: General elections for the three recalls of Democratic state Senators.
There’s some value in making the process standard, with primaries and general elections in all the recalls. It reduces confusion.
However, several of the problems raised by the spoiler candidates still apply. Republican incumbents are not likely to have primary elections, and with open primaries in Wisconsin, Republican voters can try to elect the spoiler candidate against a Democratic challenger in the primary. Outside corporate backers can also run ads over a longer time frame, battering the Democrats in the primaries and driving up their negatives. Republican incumbents get more time to campaign and fundraise.
And worst of all, the state Senate will remain in Republican hands until at least August 9. That means two more months of a Republican trifecta in Wisconsin. Scott Walker and his allies have already used the last month or so to rush through his agenda while the Republicans still have total control. The added month of control will allow for potentially more legislation to get through. The state budget is expected to pass in the coming weeks, and the anti-union measures which are being held up in court may be tacked onto them. And redistricting may go through in this time period as well. That could cement Republican gains with a gerrymandered map. Even if Democrats win the state Senate in the recalls, and even if they win back the Governor’s mansion early by recalling Scott Walker, they still have to win the Assembly to ensure repeal of things like the anti-union measures. Democrats would need ten seats to win that control, and with a gerrymandered map, that becomes more difficult, though not totally impossible.
The point is, Republicans basically succeeded in their aims at running spoiler candidates: they get another month of power in Madison, and they get more time to protect their own members and blast their opponents. Recall fever may be too high to save the state Senate for the GOP, but they at least achieved a one-month reprieve.