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Update: 'Protest candidate' tries to stymie Democrats in recall

A man who has run in other elections as a Republican may be entering the 10th District Senate recall race as a Democrat in an attempt to force a primary and delay the actual recall election.

Isaac Weix, Menomonie, is circulating nomination papers to become a "protest candidate," according to the chairmen of the Pierce and St. Croix county Republican parties.

Last week Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board certified that enough signatures have been collected to force a recall election for Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), who has been the 10th District senator since 2000. The election was set for July 12.

Until now Shelly Moore, an Ellsworth High School English and drama teacher, has been the only announced candidate against Harsdorf.

If Weix is able qualify as a candidate by collecting 800 signatures by June 13, a primary would be held July 12. The actual recall election date would be pushed back to Aug. 9.

Weix ran as a Republican for the 29th District Assembly seat in 2006 and for the 93rd District Assembly seat in 2010.

The Weix campaign is apparently part of a statewide GOP effort to undermine Democrats' efforts to recall Republican senators and to give the incumbents more time to campaign.

"(The) GOP has handpicked one of their own to run as a phony spoiler candidate in a Democratic primary against Shelly Moore in the recall elections," according to a press release from the Democratic Party.

"(Weix) is not hiding the fact that he is not a Democrat," said St. Croix County GOP Chairman Jesse Garza. "The purpose is to make a stand against this recall effort."

Garza added, "I personally support his efforts and find it sad that the Democrat Party is no longer run by activist citizens in Wisconsin but rather by union leadership based out of Madison. The candidate they chose is not just a teacher who wants to make a difference but rather she is a union leader who wants WEAC to control Senate districts throughout the state."

"This is truly disgraceful," said Moore. "This coordinated attack on democracy serves no purpose but to waste taxpayer dollars, delay elections, create confusion and chaos, and avoid being judged by voters in recall elections."

"Weix is running as a protest candidate," said Pierce County GOP Chairman John Danneker, who co-signed a letter that went out June 3 to conservatives.

The letter, which urges volunteers to circulate nomination papers for Weix, says Democrats "are forcing taxpayers to pay for... unjustified recall elections because Republicans are reversing (the Democrats') tax-and-spend, job-killing agenda."

The letter said that while the GAB has delayed the recall elections against Democrats to give them more time to organize, a Democratic primary will postpone the general election by a month, giving Republicans more time to organize.

Collecting the necessary signatures in the few days available could be an obstacle.

"I know it's going to be a challenge for him," said Danneker. "We'll have to see how he does."

According to information provided during other campaigns, Weix, a Marine Corps veteran, owns several apartment buildings in Menomonie and is owner of T and S Hardware in Elmwood.

Moore called on Harsdorf to "immediately condemn and shut down this disgraceful attempt to hijack these recall elections, or explain to voters why she's along for the ride."

"Last month, our campaign called attention to the fact that many recall petitioners from out of district were circulating the petitions, some from as far away as New York and Michigan," said Harsdorf's campaign manager, Nathan Duerkop. "Now we learn that given the nature of this unprecedented recall campaign, the other side is playing games. Quite frankly, we would have hoped Shelly Moore would have been as vocal about out-of-district influences as she is today about the state party's apparent involvement."

He added that Harsdorf doesn't "support either of these tactics, but it's a symptom of a recall process managed and run by big spending special interests..."

A message left on Weix's cell phone Tuesday morning was not returned as of press time. Efforts to reach him at his store were also unsuccessful.

Harsdorf and eight other state senators are facing recall attempts as a result of battles over Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to limit government workers' collective bargaining rights.

The state Republican Party is seeking protest candidates to force primaries in the six districts in which GOP senators are being challenged.

"The upcoming recall elections are unprecedented not only in Wisconsin, but in our nation's history," said Stephan Thomson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin in a statement released Monday.

He said that while the GOP senators are hard at work developing a balanced budget, their challengers have time to campaign.

"Because of this disadvantage, and the outrageous nature of elected officials facing recall for standing up for a balanced budget, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved," said Thompson.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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