MADISON, Wis. – All six fake Democrats lost to Democrats supported by the party in primaries Tuesday that are the first in a series of recall elections targeting nine Wisconsin state senators for their positions on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's divisive union rights restrictions.
The winners advance to take on incumbent Republicans targeted for recall on Aug. 9.
The state Republican Party orchestrated the placement of the fake Democrats on Tuesday's ballot, thereby delaying the general election for a month. That gave the Republican incumbents more time to campaign and distance themselves from the turmoil over the union law that they voted to support in March, spurring the recall efforts.
Five of the six winners had at least 65 percent of the vote, based on unofficial results. The sixth, Shelly Moore, had 54 percent.
Moore defeated Isaac Weix, a Republican on the ballot as a Democrat who had previously run twice before and lost as a GOP candidate for the state Assembly. The St. Croix County Republican Party sent emails and paid for phone calls on behalf of Weix, urging Republicans to support him in the Democratic primary.
Democratic Party spokeswoman Gillian Morris said she wasn't concerned about how tight the Moore race turned out to be.
"They were campaigning pretty hard there," Morris said. "That also shows how scared they are of what Shelly Moore can do in a general election against."
State Republican Party spokeswoman Katie McCallum said the results were an embarrassment for Moore but that ultimately Tuesday's elections wouldn't change the approach being taken by any of the incumbents.
Moore, a 37-year-old Ellsworth public school teacher from River Falls in western Wisconsin, said she expected the race to be close given spending on the race from outside interest groups. She said the results won't change her approach toward taking on Republican Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in the general election.
Overall, Morris was buoyed by the election results.
"The voters of Wisconsin have rejected the Republicans' dirty tricks, despite their best efforts to turn out voters in these primaries for fake candidates," she said.
In the 2nd District, former De Pere mayor and Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum, 64, easily defeated fake Democratic candidate Otto Junkermann, an 82-year-old who served as a Brown County supervisor in the 1980s and one year as a Republican in the state Assembly.
Nusbaum, who had 65 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting, will face Republican Sen. Rob Cowles in the general election.
In the 32nd District, state Rep. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse handily defeated fake Democrat James D. Smith, a former county Republican executive committee member also from La Crosse. Shilling, who had 71 percent of the vote, takes on Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke.
State Rep. Fred Clark defeated fake Democrat Rol Church of Wautoma in the 14th District to advance to take on Republican Sen. Luther Olsen. Clark got 67 percent of the vote.
And in the 18th District, attorney Jessica King, 35, defeated John Buckstaff, 81, a retired furniture business owner. King, who had 69 percent of the vote, will face Republican Sen. Randy Hopper.
Tuesday's primaries marked the first of four recall elections during the next five weeks. The six targeted Republicans voted for Walker's bill and the three Democrats fled to Illinois for three weeks to delay a vote on the measure that takes away collective bargaining rights from most public employees.
The stakes are huge. If the Democrats gain three seats, they will take majority control away from the Republicans and be in a position to stop Walker and the GOP's agenda.
Republicans can vote in the Democratic races because Wisconsin has an open primary, raising the possibility of further mischief in the elections. State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said he was concerned Republicans would attempt to vote for the fake Democrats on Tuesday, but he was confident the real ones would prevail.
In Republican Sen. Alberta Darling's district in suburban Milwaukee, several dozen voters waited in line at Glendale City Hall about noon to choose between Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch and fake Democratic candidate Gladys Huber.
Pasch won with 67 percent of the vote.
Jim Krivitz, a 66-year-old retired museum executive, called the primary "phony." He said he was voting for Pasch in part to register his disapproval of Darling and her GOP colleagues.
"I don't like the way the current Republican administration is moving precipitously to the right on everything," he said.
Self-described conservative Walter Schoenfeld, 69, said he was voting for Huber to protest the actions of 14 Democratic state senators who fled the state.
"Democrats played like little children," said Schoenfeld, a retired health care administrator. "What's the saying? Elections have consequences. Live with it."
There is a Republican primary in two other races on July 19 and a general election in the Green Bay area with Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen versus GOP challenger Dave VanderLeest. The general election for the other two races targeting Democratic incumbents is Aug. 16.
Also Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin public policy director Chris Taylor emerged from a field of six Democrats to win a primary for a seat in the Assembly representing a portion of Dane County that was vacated by Joe Parisi when he left in April to serve as Dane County executive. Taylor has no opposition in the Aug. 9 general election.