If misery loves company, we Minnesotans, in the midst of our political misery, should find comfort in knowing that Wisconsin remains mired in political angst.
Today, a long, ugly series of recall elections begin.
Those elections, which in some cases include Republicans masquerading as Democrats, won’t end until Aug. 16.
Elections will decide control of Wisconsin Senate
Then, it’s possible — but most pundits believe unlikely — that Democrats, might be in the majority of the state Senate. Democrats, currently in the minority by a 19-14 margin, would have to hold all of their current seats and win three other recall elections to gain control.
Statewide, Democrats are challenging incumbent Republicans in six districts. In each of those cases, the Democrats must compete in a primary because Republicans, claiming to be Dems, jumped into the races.
Three sitting Democrats also are being challenged. But in those cases, real Republicans are fighting each other to get a chance to take on a seated Democrat.
What is clear is that passions are running high among the true believers on either side of the Republican-Democrat divide.
Among the true believers, Republicans are mad at Democrats for trying to recall Republicans simply because they didn’t like the politics of those who voted in support of Gov. Scott Walker’s extreme agenda.
Recall procedures have been around since 1926, Republicans point out, but it’s never been used like this. And that is fact.
Meantime, though, true-believer Democrats are fuming on two counts:
• They’re angry at Republicans who long represented themselves as moderate but then voted to support the Walker agenda.
• They’re furious that Republicans, claiming to be Democrats, have jumped into races against Democrats looking to unseat Republicans.
But those two angry groups likely represent the extremes of Wisconsin politics. How about all those in the middle? Where will they come down? Or will they even participate in this parade of elections in a non-election year.
Most Wisconsin political scientists are saying the behavior of this middle group is the great unknown.
We Minnesotans do have a classic case of the noise and confusion that is Wisconsin politics being played out just across the river.
Longtime incumbent Republican Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, who for much of her 18-year legislative career portrayed herself as a moderate, is being challenged by Democrat Shelly Moore, a teacher/union activist from Ellsworth, for the District 10 Senate seat.
In April, a committee quickly garnered 23,000 signatures (only 15,000 were needed) on a recall Harsdorf petition. That petition drive came in the wake of Harsdorf’s support of the Walker agenda, including massive cuts in public education.
Shortly after the recall petition was completed, Moore was selected by the Dems to take on Harsdorf, who has breezed to victories in the district, which includes St. Croix County and parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce and Polk counties.
But after the Dems tapped Moore to represent them, lifelong Republican Isaac Weix of Menomonie, calling himself a Democrat, got into the race, forcing a primary race today for Moore.
GOP encouraging bogus Democratic candidates
The state’s Republican Party admits it encouraged these bogus candidates to get into races, not so much with the expectation of winning but as a way to slow down the process.
Wisconsin’s explosive legislative session stretched into June. The state party wanted to make sure that there was time for statewide passions to cool and for its candidates to have a chance to campaign.
Weix, a two-time political loser in local races, has raised no money and has done virtually no campaigning. Moore said she’s never even met the man.
But she also spent the last several days pounding on doors throughout the district making sure her supporters get to the polls today.
Weix hasn’t even bothered to do that.
In Wisconsin, voters can cross over in primaries, meaning Republicans could turn out and vote in the Democratic primary.
Clearly Weix expects that. He seems to think he has a chance to win.
“If you’re undecided, you’re not voting,” said Weix of the primary in an interview with the Associated Press. “This is about one side’s base versus the other’s.”
Moore’s followers claim that not only will their candidate win the primary, but the fake Democrat actually has made Moore’s base all the more enthused.
Clearly, the big money expects a Moore victory over Weix. An independent expenditure organization, Citizens for a Stronger America, is running costly anti-Moore ads on Twin Cities television stations.
Those ads pound on Moore’s background as a union activist, ending with a Moore speech in which she’s seen saying, “We breathe unions.”
Once upon a time in Wisconsin, being involved in a union wouldn’t have been a bad thing.
Now? That’s another of the subplots of this series of elections.
It should be noted that there is context to the “we breathe unions” line that is being used by those Citizens for a Stronger America.
In introducing herself as a first-time political candidate, Moore said, “We bleed Packer green, Brewer blue and Badger red. We believe that the three major food groups are beer, cheese and bratwurst. And we breathe unions, too.”
Harsdorf is not without claims near and dear to Wisconsin roots. She’s a dairy farmer.
There are also independent expenditure groups — funded by various unions — running anti-Harsdorf ads on Twin Cities stations, too. Those ads especially blast Harsdorf for deep cuts to K-12 education.
Assuming Moore wins today, the two will meet Aug. 9.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.