Is 21st District Fake Candidate Trying to be For Real?
Tamra Varebrook was tapped by the state GOP to run as a "protest" candidate in Racine County to force a primary. Is she going above and beyond the call by hosting fundraisers and now running an attack ad against John Lehman on YouTube?
She might be running as a "fake" Democrat, but Tamra Varebrook appears to be for real about wanting to keep former Sen. John Lehman from retaking his seat in the June 5 recall election.
Lehman is presumed to be the Democratic candidate who will face state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).
Varebrook was tapped by the Republican Party of Wisconsin to run as a "protest" candidate to force a primary so all general elections are held the same day. She has served as a volunteer at the GOP Victory Center in Mount Pleasant, helping verify the signatures on recall petitions.
Had there not been a primary, Wanggaard would have faced his general election the same day as the Democratic gubernatorial primary — something Republicans wanted to avoid at all costs.
In the other races, the "fake" Democrats have done nothing once their got their names on the ballot; no campaigning, no yard signs, no ads.
But Varebrook seems to take her candidacy a bit more seriously. In April, she held a fundraiser at Fountain Hall in Sturtevant. At the time, she sent an email to Patch saying the get-together was for family, friends and supporters who are against the recalls.
"Our focus is to remind the constituents of the 21st Senate District why John Lehman was not elected in 2010 and also remind them how Lehman's failed policies hurt our district," she wrote. "A re-do at taxpayer expense doesn't change the facts of the past."
Last week she posted an ad on YouTube criticizing Lehman for his votes that Varebrook says cut education, raised taxes and fees, let felons go free through the early release program and cut funding to track sexual predators.
Beyond getting Varebrook's name on the ballot, though, the state GOP didn't get any more involved. The party didn't have anything to do with her fundraiser last month and was unaware she had put together an ad against Lehman.
"This is the first I'm hearing of this," state GOP spokesman Ben Sparks told Patch when asked about it.
Varebrook's campaign finance reports confirm the state Republicans' limited role in her candidacy. Documents show $992 for postage was the Republican Party of Wisconsin's only contribution. In total, Varebrook raised $4,471 and after expenses largely related to the fundraiser, has $2,397 cash on hand. Some of her largest donations were from an aunt ($500) and an SC Johnson employee ($730).
Bill Folk, chairman of the Racine County GOP, said that like the state party, the local party is not directly involved in Varebrook's campaign activities. As a "protest" candidate, he added, Varebrook could have used one of two viewpoints; attacking from the base or from the opposition.
"Tamra is going after (Lehman) as a conservative taxpayer," he said.
Ben Wojciechowski, spokesman for the State Senate Democratic Committee, said Varebrook has the constitutional right to speak her mind, but her efforts seem coordinated.
"No other protest candidate that I know of is putting forth any efforts to actively campaign for themselves or for the Republican official in their race," he said. "This does seem like a more coordinated effort, but maybe she's hedging her bets for a future run at office."
Patch has tried to reach Varebrook about her strategy and the YouTube ad, but she has not yet returned any of our messages.