Total Recall: Zombie candidates ready to rise on May 8
Post by Jesse Russell on 4/13/2012 12:10pm
The Republican Party of Wisconsin is no stranger to running fake candidates in Democratic primaries. In 2011 the party helped six candidates, who the GOP labels as "protest" candidates, collect signatures to trigger Democratic primaries in advance of the six recalls against Republican senators. Some of the characters we were introduced to during that effort included Rol Church, who allegedly fraternized with right-wing extremists in the '70s, and businessman John Buckstaff who in the '80s waged a campaign to prevent businesses from moving to Wisconsin.
With a new round of primaries on the horizon the Republican Party of Wisconsin has once again dusted off the "zombie" candidate playbook by tapping half a dozen candidates to ensure primaries occur for Democrats challenging their incumbents. The party has said numerous times it won't actively campaign on behalf of their candidates and that they're simply trying to ensure election fairness.
Two of the candidates mounting a challenge in this next round of elections seem to be carving a career out of being protest candidates. Isaac Weix, a failed candidate for the District 95 Assembly seat, previously challenged Shelly Moore in her bid to unseat State Senator Shelia Harsdorf. This time around Weix is throwing his hat in the ring to ensure a primary for Democratic candidate Mahlon Mitchell in the race for Lieutenant Governor.
Of all the zombie candidates in the 2011 recalls he was the only one to come within 10 points of beating the actual Democrat on the ballot. Regardless of the GOP's statement that they wouldn't campaign for the zombie candidates Weix received an in-kind donation from the St. Croix County Republican party of $5,279.87. The party also sent out emails and made robocalls encouraging party members to vote for Weix in the Democratic primary.
Gladys Huber of Mequon previously tried her hand at being a fake Democrat when she signed up to force a primary against Rep. Sandy Pasch, who was challenging state Senator Alberta Darling. This time she'll be on the Democratic ticket for Governor against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Secretary of State Douglas La Follette. In the 2011 recall race, the Republican Party of Wisconsin provided Huber with $750 for printing and postage.
So who are the new folks stepping up on behalf of the GOP to guarantee Democratic primaries on May 8?
District 29 State Senator Pam Galloway was set to be recalled, with District 85 Rep. Donna Seidel challenging the incumbent. However, Galloway stepped down shortly after it was announced enough signatures had been collected for her recall. But even with Galloway resigning the recall election will move forward. Former District 89 Rep. Jerry Petrowski has announced he'll be Seidel's Republican challenger in an effort to hold the seat for the GOP.
The "protest" candidate will be James R. Buckley of Antigo. While Antigo isn't part of District 29, candidates are only required to move to the district they wish to represent if they win the election. Participating in recall efforts isn't new for Buckley who helped collect signatures in the effort to recall State Senator Jim Holperin (D-District 12). Holperin went on to defeat challenger Kim Simac.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald faces a recall in District 13 where Lori Compas was able to succeed in a signature collection effort without the support of out-of-district organizations. The fake Democrat challenging Compas in the primary will be Gary Ellerman. Ellerman isn't shy about his love for both Gov. Scott Walker and Fitzgerald. The Lake Mills Republican is the founder of "Walker Walkers," an organization that seeks to show the politicians they're still well supported in the community. We Are Wisconsin recently circulated a photo of Ellerman posing for a photo with Fitzgerald.
Tamra Varebrook of Union Grove will be defending District 21 State Senator Van Wanggaard from former District 21 Senator John Lehman and Andrew Mielke of Caledonia. Mielke has expressed that he's running because he's unsatisfied with both parties and he doesn't see Lehman as a particularly strong candidate.
Unlike most of the Republicans pretending to be Democrats Varebrook is taking her effort seriously. She's launched a website and is planning a fundraising party at Fountain Hall in Sturtevant on April 19. Much like many of her counterparts Varebrook has already been an active recall participant. Earlier this year she helped seek out fake signatures on the recall petitions for Wanggaard. She told the Racine Journal Times, "Van is my senator. I voted for him and I don’t want my vote taken away."
In Senate District 23, former Rep. Kristen Dexter would face fake Democrat James Engel of Fall Creek prior to the official election against State Senator Terry Moulton.
Democratic candidates aren't the only ones who will be facing "protest" candidates. Gov. Scott Walker is being primaried by, very literally, protester-turned-candidate Arthur Kohl-Riggs.What sets Kohl-Riggs apart from the Republicans running as Democrats is he wasn't sought out by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Last year Democrats chose not to follow the lead of Republicans, with Chair Maike tate saying, "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."
Kohl-Riggs doesn't identify as being a member of either party, but has said publicly he'll be mounting his challenge as a "Lincoln Republican" and that he plans to return the party to its roots when it was "a pro-labor, abolitionist party." He said on his Facebook page "I have never identified with either of the two parties and it would be equally disingenuous for me to run as a Democrat. Right now my views most directly align with those of the Progressive Republican party of 'Fighting' Bob La Follette."
The question of the legality of running as a fake candidate has been a hot topic over the last few weeks. Attorney Jeremy P. Levinson, in a memo (pdf) to We Are Wisconsin, claims that these so-called "protest" candidates violate state election law.
However, with Wisconsin being an open primary state the Government Accountability Board seems to be coming down on the side of "live and let live."
Reid Magney, the GAB's spokesperson, told dane101, "As a candidate, you are what you say you are, and it’s up to the voters to determine whether you get to represent the party."
Jesse was born and raised in Connecticut, began blogging in 1997, and moved to Madison in 2003. In 2005, he co-founded dane101 along with Kristian Knutson and Shane Wealti. In addition to helping nearly a dozen contributors run this website he's helped launch various events in the city including What's Your Damage?!, the MadPubQuiz of Awesomeness, the Fire Ball Masquerade, Dane101's Freakin' Halloweekend, and more.