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Wisconsin Democrats have now arrived at a novel solution to the problem of Republicans planting fake Democratic candidates in the recalls against Republican state senators, in order to force primaries and thus delay the general elections for some of the races: The Dems are now going to plant their own extra Democratic candidates — now dubbed “placeholder” candidates by the Dems — in order to delay all the targeted recalls to August.
Don’t worry if this sounds a bit confusing — because it is. This whole mess began when Republicans 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. (Examples of the fake Democratic candidates include an 82-year old former Republican state legislator, and a 25-year old GOP activist, among others.)
The key here is that recalls are now tentatively scheduled for July 12, under the state election officials’ proposed timelines, targeting six Republicans. (Three more recalls have been scheduled against Democrats, for July 19.) 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 on August 9.On Friday, the labor-backed progressive group We Are Wisconsin called upon the Dems to retaliate by running fake Republican candidates in the other side’s primaries, in order to defuse the potential for crossover shenanigans. The Dems’ media responses over this question took a while, but later in the evening they told Greg Sargent that they were considering such a path, though no decision was yet made.
On Saturday evening, state Dem chairman Mike Tate released a statement, explaining that the party would not run fake Republican candidates. But instead, they will run an extra Dem candidate in each of the six primary races, in order to put all the races into August on their own terms — not just the ones where Republicans plant a fake candidate in order to jumble up the calendar.
In the statement, Tate explains the rationale for the decision:
“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.
“No one likes where Republicans have taken this process. The fight for Wisconsin is too important to have one hand tied behind our back.”
The filing deadline for these six recalls is this Tuesday, 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.