Key Question For Wis. Dems: To Run Fake Candidates, Or Not?

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Wisconsin Democrats now face a key decision in the state Senate recalls: After Republicans have declared a strategy to plant fake candidates in the Democratic primaries — in order to delay the general elections from July to August, and make trouble in the Dem primaries while the GOP incumbents run unopposed — will they respond in kind and plant fake candidates on the Republican side?

Earlier on Friday, the labor-backed progressive group We Are Wisconsin called upon Dems to run some fake Republican candidates, arguing that this was necessary in order to stop the Republicans from sabotaging the Dem primaries. From their statement:

Another potential scenario created by the Republican chicanery in the primary that could severely disadvantage Democratic candidates is that Republican incumbents who do not face primary challengers advance automatically to the general election ballot. This creates a scenario where “legitimate” Democratic challengers are exposed to unlimited spending by outside groups and pro-Republican forces, which could cause the “legitimate” Democrats in the race to lose the sham primary. There would be no check on millions of dollars in shady outside money coming in to relentlessly attack “legitimate” Democrats, and full-scale mobilization of Republican resources to turn out their voters in the Democratic primary and to advocate a message such as “if you support Randy Hopper, vote for fake candidate X.”

Running fake Republicans, the argument goes, would force GOP voters to stick to their own primary and prevent a spoiler from winning on that side, thus defusing any such potential ploy.

TPM sought comment from the state Dems and was told a statement was forthcoming. So at time of writing, the gears appear to still be turning on this question at the Dem headquarters.The filing deadline for those recalls is this Tuesday, June 14, at 5 p.m. CT. In order to qualify for the ballot, candidates must at that time also file at least 400 signatures collected from the district, with 800 signatures as the maximum allowed in order to have a buffer against disqualifications.

The key here is that recalls are now tentatively scheduled for July 12, under the state election officials’ proposed timelines, targeting six Republicans. If there were only one Democrat against each one Republican, then the July 12 date would be the general election. But if there were additional Democrats, the July 12 date would then become the primary, giving the incumbents more time to campaign for a general election in August.

Also, thanks to Wisconsin’s open primary system in which anybody can vote in a party primary, it would force the Democrats to spend time, money and resources campaigning for their own nominations.

ed. note: This post has been edited to correct the filing date for candidates in the recalls.

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