State GOP to Run Phony Candidates in Senate Recall Races
Residents of the 21st Senate District could be forced into voting during a primary if the Republican Party of Wisconsin runs what it's call a protest candidate to challenge former state Sen. John Lehman in primary.
Whether an independent candidate collects the necessary signatures to put his name on the ballot for the recall election in the 21st Senate District probably won't matter when it comes to a primary election.
In a press release on the state party's website, Executive Director Stephan Thompson said the reason for running protest candidates is so elections line up on the same day across the state. The state Government Accountability Board has set the primaries for May 8 and the general election for June 5. In races where there is no primary, May 8 would serve as the general election.
"The protest candidates will run as Democrats to guarantee that there is one clear date for the primary election and one clear date for the general election," Thompson said. "The Democrats and their union bosses are the ones who decided to force these baseless recalls on our state, and by ensuring every Democratic candidate faces a primary election, we will limit their ability to once again create chaos within the election process.”
Protest candidates will not get any active campaign support, Thompson added, but they will get help collecting the necessary signatures to put their names on the ballot.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) is actively campaigning throughout the district in preparation for the June 5 general election. Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and three other GOP state senators are also targeted for recall.
The move doesn't add any cost to local municipalities, said Ben Sparks, spokesman for the Republican Party. Because there is already going to be a primary to decide the Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial race, it's just a matter of adding names to the ballots.
"This is about fairness. If we did not do this, some Republican candidates in a general election could face election on the same day every liberal in the state will turn out for the primary," he said. "This guarantees a primary and a general election on the same day for everyone."
Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the state Democratic Party, said running protest candidates is a dirty trick.
"Wisconsin has been brought to new lows under Scott Walker and it continues with the latest Tea Party dirty trick. Scott Walker's corrupt ways are poisoning our politics," he told Patch via email.
Former Sen. John Lehman — whom Wanggaard defeated in November 2010 — is running as a Democrat and has been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Racine County. Andrew Mielke from Caledonia has also announced he is running for Wanggaard's seat and will face Lehman in a primary. He is not a member of either party, and he told Patch Friday that he is not the GOP's protest candidate.
"I am not a fake, and I wasn't put up to run by anyone," he said. "I am running for the people of this district. When the list of names of the protest candidates is released, my name won't be on it."
Mielke said he is working with a small group of volunteers to collect the 400 necessary signatures to get his name on the ballot. He has until 5 p.m. April 10 to turn in his nomination packet in person so some of the forms can be notarized.
Lehman said he is not surprised by the move and wants to know if Wanggaard supports this move by the state GOP.
"He is a member of the state party right? I want to know if Van supports this practice," he stated. "We have expected it because they've done this previously and it is to their fundraising advantage. It is unfortunate they keep denying the signatures of residents, but we're going to have an election no matter what."
Patch reached Justin Phillips, campaign manager for Wanggaard, Sunday after getting a tip about a Victory Center volunteer being pegged as the protest candidate. Phillips said the state party is running this show and Wanggaard's campaign was not consulted.
"Any protest candidates are being filed through the state party," he said. "We were never consulted, and if they did approach a volunteer, then I'm sure they had good reason. We continue to knock on doors talking to people and making calls to focus on the campaign."