MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The first recall elections targeting nine Wisconsin state senators for their positions on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's divisive union rights restrictions pitted six fake Democrats on Tuesday against Democrats supported by the party.
The winners will 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.
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.
Elections officials were not making a prediction on turnout.
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.
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.
The candidates on the primary ballot Tuesday are:
— 2nd District: Former De Pere mayor and Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum, 64, and Otto Junkermann, an 82-year-old protest candidate who served as a Brown County supervisor in the 1980s and one year as a Republican in the state Assembly. The winner faces Sen. Rob Cowles.
— 8th District: State Rep. Sandy Pasch, 57, in her second term in office and Gladys Huber, 80, a protest candidate who has been an active member of the Ozaukee County Republican Party. The winner takes on Sen. Alberta Darling.
— 10th District: Shelly Moore, 37, an Ellsworth public school teacher from River Falls and fake Democrat Isaac Weix, 36, a hardware store owner from Menomonie. The winner faces Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and independent BJ Cook of River Falls.
— 14th District: State Rep. Fred Clark, 52, and Rol Church of Wautoma. The winner takes on Sen. Luther Olsen.
— 18th District: Attorney Jessica King, 35, and John Buckstaff, 81, a retired furniture business owner. The winner faces Sen. Randy Hopper.
— 32nd District: State Rep. Jennifer Shilling, 42, of La Crosse, and James D. Smith, a former county Republican executive committee member also from La Crosse. The winner takes on Sen. Dan Kapanke.
Also Tuesday, six Democrats were running 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. The winner in that race has no opposition in the Aug. 9 general election.
Associated Press writer Dinesh Ramde contributed to this report from Glendale, Wis.