Wisconsin Recall Elections Hit Snags

by Christian Schneider

Last week, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified six recall elections against Republican state senators — yet they claim they need more time to certify the three recall elections against Democratic senators. This despite the fact that some of the signatures required to force the Democrats’ recalls were submitted before the signatures submitted to recall Republicans.

This brought howls of protest from the GOP, as it may set up a scenario where the six recall elections against Republicans are held on a different day than the three recall elections against Democrats. That will mean that on one election day, Democratic volunteers won’t have to protect any of their incumbents. As one GOP operative told me, it will allow Democrats to “rush eleven,” in football parlance. Democrats need to pick up three seats to regain control of the Senate.

Two Republican incumbent senators face long odds. One of them is Randy Hopper from Fond du Lac, who represents a strong GOP district but has some personal issues to work out with his constituents. During the initial round of protests, demonstrators showed up at Hopper’s Fond du Lac home to picket, but were told by Hopper’s wife to buzz off because he lived down in Madison with his 25-year-old mistress.

Republican Dan Kapanke faces the opposite problem — he is well liked (he owns a minor league baseball team in La Crosse), but his district leans Democrat. He is facing a challenge from incumbent assemblywoman Jennifer Shilling, who is running an ad asking “Are you going to tell seniors they can’t retire, and if they do, they can’t go to the doctor?” (Ah, yes, who can forget Governor Walker’s famous “Seniors Can’t Retire or Go to the Doctor” Act?)

If both Hopper and Kapanke lose, that leaves only one more seat Democrats have to pick up to retake the Senate. In order to delay recall elections, the GOP has planned to run fake Democratic primary candidates against the GOP challengers, which would push the elections back another month. That would give Republicans an extra month’s worth of distance from the collective-bargaining imbroglio that got them in this situation, and would allow more time to campaign.

Yet this will almost certainly be seen as a “dirty trick” by media and some voters. It certainly appears like an admission that Republicans are struggling. And while it can be argued that the recall elections in themselves are merely dirty tricks, enough of a double standard exists that this ploy could backfire. (Last year, Democrats themselves used a similar trick, running a fake Republican against a very conservative Independent candidate, hoping it would split the vote and give victory to a Democrat.)

While all this unfolds, unions and their allies have set up a small city of tents outside the capitol, dubbing it “Walkerville.” (Others have derisively begun calling it “Entitledtown.”) Last week, boisterous singing protesters forced an American Red Cross blood drive from the statehouse. Marches continue around the capitol square, complete with chants of “Tax, tax, tax the rich!” No one seems to recognize the irony of teachers being able to spend all summer protesting their unfair treatment because they don’t have to go to work for three months.

At least that’s three months where they won’t be able to force elementary school kids to draw pictures of Scott Walker as the devil as part of an art class assignment.

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.