Wis. GOP Senate Leader: There’s Nothing Cynical About Running Fake Candidates

June 7, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) is standing by the state GOP’s new strategy of recruiting fake Democratic candidates for the state Senate recalls — which have been launched as a Democratic counter-attack on Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation — in order to force Dem primaries and delay the general elections. And furthermore, Fitzgerald said such a tactic would not create voter cynicism — the recalls are the source of voter cynicism.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

“It gives us another month to campaign,” said the Republican from Juneau.

Fitzgerald said he was not worried running fake Democrats would engender cynicism among voters.

“I think the cynicism comes from the recalls,” Fitzgerald said. “Recalling senators for taking a tough vote is just wrong.”

The key here is that recalls are now tentatively scheduled for July 12, under the state election officials’ proposed timelines, targeting six Republicans. As of now, those Republicans are only facing one Democrat each. 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.

As the paper reports, Fitzgerald accused Democrats of launching this strategy first, in a state Assembly race in 2010. A conservative Democratic legislator, state Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, changed his party affiliation to independent, and Republicans intended to support him and run no candidate in the general election. However, a fake Republican filed for the ballot, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to split the vote and help the Democrats. The state Democratic Party has said that it had no role in recruiting that fake GOP candidate.

On Monday, after evidence of the strategy had been emerged across the state, state GOP executive director Stephan Thompson released a statement on the justifications:

“The upcoming recall elections are unprecedented not only in Wisconsin, but in our nation’s history. Unlike the Democratic Senators who deserted their constituents for a trip to Illinois, six Republican state Senators face recall not for misconduct, but for doing the job they were elected to do: taking a stance on a tough issue that came before the legislature. Now, these Republican senators are again busy doing their jobs crafting a fiscally responsible state budget that promotes economic growth, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage with many of their challengers who have had sufficient time to campaign. Because of this disadvantage, and the outrageous nature of elected officials facing recall for standing up for a balanced budget, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved. The public deserves time to learn about the differences between the candidates and about the Republican plan to control government spending and boost economic growth vs. the Democrat alternative of job-killing tax hikes.”

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