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COMMENTARY: Fake candidate follies, 2012 edition

By   /   April 13, 2012  /   No Comments


By Kevin Binversie
Let it be declared throughout the Badger State that Wisconsin’s liberals hate stealth candidates — Republicans who switch parties to run as Democrats in Democratic primaries and, so, siphon votes from real Democrats.

On Thursday, Milwaukee attorney Jeremy Levinson, acting on behalf of union-backed We Are Wisconsin, filed a complaint to the Government Accountability Board, or GAB. The complaint said all GOP protest candidates running in recalls of four state Senate seats, lieutenant governor and governor are fraudulent and must to be removed from the ballot.
That’s a remarkable change for the state's liberals. A year ago, We Are Wisconsin considered running fake candidates of its own.
On June 10, We Are Wisconsin asked the state Democratic Party to run its own “Fake Republicans” to ensure there was limited crossover voting in Wisconsin’s open primary system. The logic of the request was clear: Republicans were running fake Dems, and catastrophe would be befall the state, if the Wisconsin Democratic Party didn’t retaliate in the same manner.
You can practically hear the desperation in the group’s news release:
Given the situation Republicans have so despicably concocted to manipulate these recall elections, it is the opinion of We Are Wisconsin that it would be in the interest of Democrats to run candidates in the Republican primaries to ensure the dates of the general election are predictably on August 9th, and that Republicans are forced to win a primary election instead of diverting their unlimited resources to back their “fake” candidates against “legitimate” Democrats. To that end, it would be in the interest of flipping the Wisconsin Senate that interested Democrats contact the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
The same news release reveals that We Are Wisconsin had examined the legal implications of such an effort. “Ideally, GAB could step in and prevent the Republicans from deploying this despicable tactic,” it read. “However, GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the staff doesn’t believe the Republican scheme ‘raises any significant legal issues.’”
That was then. Now that the fake-politician footwear is on the other appendage? Forgetting its own jurisprudential research, the group is complaining that GAB should, in fact, intervene.
That flip-flop requires some historical cleanup, and so We Are Wisconsin has removed from its website the offending page showing its June 10 news release
Fortunately, the news release still lives on the site of Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent, who writes “The Plum Line,” a national, liberal political blog.
Calls for comment to We Are Wisconsin spokesman Kelly Steele were not returned.
Like them or not, placeholder candidates have been a long-standing practice in American politics, dating back to the nation's founding. Most of them know they exist only to ensure an eventual matchup between the real candidates running for the office. Some might even win on occasion.
Marquette University law professor Rick Esenberg, who also serves at the president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said there’s probably no case here for liberals upset about the GOP running “fake” candidates.
“A declaration of candidacy never once asks you to affirm that you support or prescribe to a certain party’s beliefs or platform,” Esenberg said. “All it asks you is if are running under a certain party’s banner.
“You are who you say you are. You live where you say you live, and so on. Where in that is that a false or fraudulent statement?”
Liberals also may be fighting the wrong battle at the wrong time. On Tuesday, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, a 23-year-old videographer who has spent most of the past 18 months protesting Act 10 — the state's public union reform package — got on the ballot for governor. He filed as a Republican, ensuring a primary for Gov. Scott Walker.
Part of the reason he said he’s running, according to this YouTube video, is “to help safeguard against Walker supporters trying to disingenuously influence the Democratic primary.”
That’s both a perfectly legal reason to run and a politically acceptable one as well. Esenberg’s take on Kohl-Riggs? “I don’t think he committed a crime, either.”
No, not a crime. But for We Are Wisconsin, the Kohl-Riggs candidacy has got to be awkward. On Thursday, it filed a complaint about fake candidates, and now it has got one.
Historical archivists may wish to proceed immediately to the We Are Wisconsin website — before the group dumps its Thursday’s complaint down the electronic memory hole.

Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native who has been blogging on the state’s political culture for more than eight years. He has served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous Wisconsin Republican campaigns in various capacities, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at [email protected]