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Six file paperwork to challenge Democratic senators in recall elections

Six file paperwork to challenge Democratic senators in recall elections

By Jay Sorgi. CREATED Jun 22, 2011

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Six candidates filed paperwork Tuesday to challenge three Democratic state senators in recall elections this summer.

The nomination papers still have to be verified by the state Government Accountability Board, which is expected to wrap up that task by next week. If the candidacies are upheld, each race will feature the Democratic incumbent along with two challengers who are both registered as Republicans.

The filings mark one of the last administrative steps ahead of primaries next month and general elections in August.

The three Democrats are being targeted because they opposed Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to remove collective-bargaining rights from most public workers. Six Republican state senators also are being targeted for supporting that measure.

Assuming the Republican paperwork filed Tuesday is in order and survives any challenge, all nine races will feature a primary followed by a general election. The six Republican incumbents would be challenged first, with Democratic candidates holding primaries on July 12 followed by general elections Aug. 9.

The three Democratic incumbents would face their challenges a week later, with Republican primaries on July 19 and general elections Aug. 16.

The parties have relied on different pre-election strategies. In the challenges to GOP senators, the state Republican Party made sure that Democrats would have to hold primaries first by running Republicans as "fake" Democrats. The strategy meant the general election would be pushed back a month, giving the Republican incumbents more time to prepare.

Democrats pledged not to use the same tactic to force Republican primaries. As it turns out, they didn't need to, since two Republicans are already vying for each seat currently held by a Democrat.

The challengers to Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover are Kim Simac, a tea party organizer from Eagle River, and Robert Lussow of Tomahawk.

Fred Ekornaas of Bristol will square off against Jonathan Steitz of Pleasant Prairie, with the winner facing Sen. Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie.

And Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay will defend his seat from either Rep. John Nygren of Marinette or David VanderLeest of Green Bay.

The candidacy filings followed a separate development Tuesday regarding lawsuits by both parties against the Government Accountability Board.

Both parties argue that the GAB incorrectly allowed recall elections against them to proceed despite problems with the collection of signatures and filing of petitions to force those elections.

The state Justice Department filed a motion Tuesday on behalf of the GAB seeking consolidation of the cases currently pending in Dane County circuit court. The GAB argued that not consolidating the cases could lead to inconsistent results and "a chaos of election dates."

However, Jeremy Levinson, the attorney representing the three Democratic state senators said he didn't support combining their lawsuits. He said he saw no reason to consolidate the cases and said it will slow down the process.

Eric McLeod, the attorney for the Republicans, said Monday he favored joining the six individual cases for the Republicans with the one filed collectively by the three Democrats.

"I think it's important a single judge address all of these," McLeod said.

The Republicans facing recall elections are Sens. Rob Cowles of Green Bay, Alberta Darling of River Hills, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

Democrats need to pick up three seats to gain majority control of the Senate.

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Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

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Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)