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Wisconsin Calvinball Watch: Operatives Trying to Get Republicans to Vote in Democratic Recall Primaries

The dirty tricksters are out in Wisconsin.

Next Tuesday, Wisconsinites will go to the polls in the beginning stages of the recall elections for the state Senate. These will be primary elections in six districts. The incumbent Republicans are running unopposed. But the Democratic challengers received a primary challenge of their own from fake candidates, placed on the ballot by local Republicans. This was done ostensibly to give recalled Republican Senators another month to campaign and raise cash for the recall general elections, on August 9. But if they can sneak one of the fake candidates to victory in a low-turnout primary, all the better. Because then, the general election would be between a Republican incumbent, and a “Democratic” challenger who’s actually a Republican too. And there’s now evidence that some Republicans are making an effort on this front.

Allies of one of the top GOP targets in the recalls, state senator Randy Hopper, are circulating flyers in his district trying to get out the vote for the fake Dem in the Democratic primary against his Dem opponent.

You can view the flyer, which was found and passed along by We Are Wisconsin, right here. It urges voters to go out to the polls to vote for one John Buckstaff against the real Democrat, Oshkosh deputy mayor Jessica King, a strong candidate against the vulnerable Hopper.

The flyer is the work of a group that calls itself “Patriot Advisors,” which is registered as an opponent of the real Dem, Jessica King, and an ally of the fake Dem candidate, John Buckstaff, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board tells me.

Buckstaff, even though he’s running in a Dem primary, is an 81 year old Republican and donor to … GOP state senator Randy Hopper.

The important detail here is that Wisconsin has open primaries. So anyone can vote in next week’s Democratic primary, including Republicans. So we could see an “Operation Chaos” moment where Republicans cross over and try to get Buckstaff and the other fake candidates nominated.

Now the track record of these kinds of dirty tricks is pretty poor. Even when Rush Limbaugh proposed Operation Chaos in the 2008 primaries, it didn’t actually amount to much, political science shows. Not that many Republicans actually crossed over. And the megaphone here is much smaller than when Limbaugh was trying it.

But it’s certainly another example of Republicans in Wisconsin dismissing all norms and engaging in whatever tactics necessary to win. And with a low turnout expected for midsummer primaries that aren’t the main event in the recall fight, who knows?

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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