Today, the Government Accountability Board considered challenges by the Democrat Party of Wisconsin to the nomination papers of four of the six candidates challenging the three Democrat senators up for recall, and tossed Assemblyman John Nygren (R-Marinette) off the 30th Senate District Republican primary ballot. That means that in the 30th Senate District, the July 19 election between David VanderLeest, the organizer of the recall petition movement against Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), and Hansen will be the election, as the challenge against VanderLeest’s nomination papers, as well as those against Kim Simac, who organized the recall petition movement against 12th District Senator Jim Holperin (D-Conover) and Bob Lussow, Lincoln County Board Chairman (also running in the 12th), were deemed insufficient to remove them from the ballot.
A bit of background – on June 10, the GAB ordered recall elections to proceed against Hansen, Holperin, and 22nd District Senator Robert Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie). Potential candidates had from that point until June 21 to submit a minimum of 400 signatures and a maximum of 800 signatures on nomination papers to the GAB. Challenges to said petitions could be filed as late as June 24, and in this case, the DPW chose to challenge 4 of them. Over in the Republican recalls, the deadlines were a week earlier as the elections were ordered on June 3, and there were no challenges. However, three “placeholder” candidates recruited by the DPW to ensure primaries in those elections, who submitted a sufficient number of signatures to be on the ballot, did not file economic interest statements by June 17 and thus were not placed on the ballot.
Specifically with respect to Nygren, he submitted approximately 440 signatures. The GAB staff determined in their initial review that 424 signatures were valid. The DPW challenged over 50 of the signatures, the staff ultimately recommended that 26 of the challenges be upheld, and the board followed the recommendation. In a subsequent statement as reported by WisPolitics, Nygren strongly hinted at a legal challenge to put him back on the ballot.
That is a blow to the Republicans, as Nygren was seen as the “better” of the two candidates. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Nygren later this week.
One or more “protest” candidates, advanced by the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the stated purpose of giving the 6 targeted Republicans more time to campaign, knocking off the DPW-endorsed candidate in the Democrat primary is something that I had not considered. However, in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story this past weekend, UW-Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee, a former legislator on the Democrat side of the aisle, suggests it is quite possible. He noted that all six targeted Republicans won in the face of the Obama/Democrat tide of 2008, that it should be a low-turnout election, and that Wisconsin does have an open primary where there is no such thing as party registration.
Others interviewed for the story, including a spokeswoman for the RPW, downplayed the idea, saying that there would need to be a major effort to make that work, and there did not appear to be any major effort going on. However, one of the skeptics noted that even the mere possibility of this upset showed just how unpredicatble Wisconsin politics has become.
One thing that was overlooked in the story that suggests this is possible – the only thing that will be on the ballot on July 12 will be the six Democrat primaries. Unlike a normal primary election, the otherwise-unchallenged incumbent party will not have a primary race listed on the ballot. The lack of multiple parties on the ballot, even though under normal circumstances one of the parties would have just one candidate plus a space for a write-in, means there is no need to choose a party in whose primary one will vote.
I would tend to agree with the skeptics on whether a July 12 upset or more will happen, except potentially in the case of the 14th District, as Assemblyman/Senate candidate Fred Clark (D-Baraboo) was caught on tape voicing his desire to smack a person he had just called around. Of course, that assumes that somebody seizes on this for the July primary.
As I noted last week, all 9 incumbents had filed legal challenges to the ordered recall elections, and that the GAB was going to seek to consolidate all the cases. That consolidation has happened, with Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess setting dates of June 29 for initial briefs, July 5 for responses and July 7 for final replies. Niess denied a RPW informal motion to delay the July 12 primaries set in the targeted districts held by Republicans as he plans to have a ruling by then, but did say that if things were delayed, that could be revisited.
Assuming there are no changes ordered by a court, here is the final timeline:
July 12 – Recall Democrat “primaries” (DPW-endorsed candidate listed first, RPW protest caniddate second) in the 2nd Senate District (Nancy Nusbaum vs. Otto Junkerman), 8th Senate District (Sandy Pasch vs Gladys Huber), 10th Senate District of Shelia Harsdorf (Shelly Moore vs Issax Weix), 14th Senate District (Fred Clark vs Rol Church), 18th Senate District (Jessica King vs John Buckstaff) and 32nd Senate District (Jennifer Shilling vs James Smith).
July 19 – Recall general election in the 30th Senate District (Democrat incumbent Dave Hansen versus Republican challenger David VanderLeest), and recall Republican primaries in the 12th Senate District (Kim Simac vs Robert Lussow) and the 22nd Senate District (Fred Ekornaas vs Jonathan Steitz).
August 9 – Recall general elections in the Senate districts currently held by Republicans – Robert Cowles in the 2nd, Alberta Darling in the 8th, Shelia Harsdorf in the 10th, Luther Olsen in the 14th, Randy Hopper in the 18th and Dan Kapanke in the 32nd. There are no third-party/independent candidates on the ballot.
August 16 – Recall general elections in the 12th Senate District (currently held by Democrat Jim Holperin) and the 22nd Senate District (currently held by Democrat Robert Wirch).
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