A Dane County judge has ruled against Wisconsin GOP state Rep. John Nygren’s effort to get onto the ballot to challenge Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen, after state election officials disqualified Nygren due to a lack of sufficient petition signatures. It leaves the GOP with only one other candidate in the race — who brings some personal baggage.
As WisPolitics reports, Nygren has now announced that he will not further contest the decision, and as such is dropping out of the race. “While I disagree with the court’s decision, I respect the process and will cease any further actions to appeal this decision,” Nygren says. “It’s unfortunate that my candidacy in this recall election has been determined by Democrat-appointed GAB staff that has constantly worked against me as I defended myself from the Democratic Party’s frivolous challenges.”
When he filed his petitions, Nygren only turned in 424 signatures, just over the 400 minimum. Candidates are allowed to turn in up to 800 signatures, twice the minimum, in order to have a buffer against signature disqualifications (and in nearly all cases, they do submit a significant buffer). After Democrats challenged errors and qualifications for some signatures at the state Government Accountability Board — which oversees elections in the state — he was busted down to 398, two short of the threshold, thus keeping him off the ballot.
Some perspective: Republicans were able to gather over 18,000 signatures to trigger a recall against Hansen (and even though some of them were fraudulent, this was still an accomplishment overall) — yet did not make enough of an effort to get 400 signatures plus a decent-sized buffer for their preferred candidate.Nygren’s attorney had attempted to argue that some of the rejected signatures should be counted under a lesser standard of “substantial compliance,” which is less than strict compliance with all requirements, but Judge Richard Niess did not agree.
Also, to rub salt in the wound, Nygren did not sign his own petitions. In an attempt to help put him back over the 400 threshold, his attorney tried to argue at the GAB and in court that when Nygren collected signatures himself — which involves signing on the petition form a statement of support for the candidate — this should have counted as a petition signature. This argument was unsuccessful, as those signature-gatherer signatures have not been counted as petition signatures in the past.
However, as TPM has previously noted, Republicans still have another candidate: GOP activist David VanderLeest, an organizer of the original Recall-Hansen drive, whose signatures passed muster against Democrats’ challenges.
The bad news for the GOP is that VanderLeest has a personal legal record that is spotty at best. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has previously reported — involving a bankruptcy, home foreclosure, an unpaid judgment of $30,000 with a bank, building code violations, and a misdemeanor conviction for disorderly conduct. The latter conviction was part of a plea deal for a domestic dispute.
On Thursday, VanderLeest responded to Democratic attacks on his personal background, with a lengthy one-paragraph statement. All spelling and grammatical errors are indeed from the original:
I am an advocate for truth in Brown County. I have sued public officials for curruption and abuse of power, as an attempt to protect the hard working taxpayers, of NE WI. (see federal court case number 07-c-318) I am inocent of every criminal case ever brought against me. Every accusation ever brought fourth, happened because my then wife had a drinking problem, and made false accusations that she later recanted. These cases were intensified at the hand of currupt officials, who viewed me as a political threat, and wanted to silence, suppress, and minimize me, like Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate tryed to do today. Crooked public officals like this do not deserve the public trust. They fear my ability to polarize the public and expose true corruption that takes place at the hand of public officials who have different political views then me. People like this have no morals, and only care about winning, at any and all cost. These officials do not care who they hurt in the process, they are simply interested in protecting their place at the public trough. Hurting David VanderLeest and his seven year old son James, are just ways of getting currupt official the means they desire.