From the start of the fight against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assault on labor rights, local democracy, public schools and social services, the political strategy has been to recall at least three Republican state senators and flip control of that legislative chamber to the Democrats.
That would create a legislative check and balance on Walker and radically shift the political dynamic in the state that has become ground zero in the fight not just to defend unions in Wisconsin but to challenge the GOP austerity push nationwide.
The six Democratic primaries being held today in Wisconsin state Senate districts begin the recall voting process that will play out on four separate election dates. The schedule starts with Tuesday’s primaries to nominate Democratic challengers to Republican senators who backed Republican Governor Scott Walker’s anti-labor agenda. Next week, Republican challengers will be chosen for two Democratic senators who have been forced into recall fights, and a third Democratic senator (Dave Hansen of Green Bay) will face a partisan runoff with a weak Republican challenger. On August 9, there will be partisan runoffs for the six Republican-held seats. On August 16, there will be partisan runoffs for the two Democratic seats.
It all adds up to one of the most remarkable tests of a sitting governor’s agenda—and political staying power—ever initiated in the first year of the executive’s four-year term.
Yet, today’s primaries are an odd start to the process, as they were forced by a Republican strategy to run “fake Democrats” against the “real Democrats” who were recuited by and are supported by Democratic Party leaders and unions. Wisconsin has open primaries, however, so Republicans can vote in Democratic primaries (and vice versa). That means that Republicans could cross over and try to nominate a “fake Democrat.”
Confirmation came this morning that Republicans have invested in "robo-calls" and other tools to get conservatives to cross over and vote in the Democratic primaries. How extensive the campaign will be remains to be seen.
By the same token, the primaries give Democrats a chance to flex their muscles.
Here are four election-night scenarios to consider:
1. Worst-Case Scenario for Democrats
One of the “fake Democrats” beats a real Democrat. This would be a dramatic setback and would significantly lessen prospects for flipping control of the Senate.