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Republican incumbents outraise Democratic challengers in recall elections
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Republican incumbents outraise Democratic challengers in recall elections

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Spending reports for state Senate recall elections filed Tuesday showed Republicans were outraising Democratic challengers in at least four races, but not all the incumbents have the financial upper hand heading into the Aug. 9 election.

The Republicans took advantage of a state law that allows lawmakers targeted for recalls to exceed normal contribution limits during the period petitions are being circulated and before the election dates are set.

Democratic challengers could only start raising money after they announced their campaigns, generally in early May, and they couldn't take any more than $1,000 from individual contributors and political action committees.

All six Democratic candidates have raised more than $1.5 million to date and collectively they have nearly $1 million cash on hand.

Reports filed with the state Government Accountability Board showed GOP Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse outraised challenger state Rep. Jennifer Shilling by a more than 2-1 margin — $726,000 to $271,000. However, as of Friday, Shilling had $154,000 cash on hand compared with $124,000 for Kapanke.

Fundraising was very close in the 18th District, where the incumbent Sen. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac was facing Democrat Jessica King, whom he beat by less than 200 votes in 2008. Hopper raised nearly $227,000 for the year compared with $221,000 for King. But she had $191,000 cash on hand compared with $92,000 for Hopper.

It wasn't as close in the 8th District where Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills raised $958,000 for the year compared with $431,000 for Democratic challenger Rep. Sandy Pasch. However, all of Pasch's money was raised just since she announced her campaign in early May while Darling was raising money all year.

Darling had $401,000 cash on hand while Pasch had $216,000.

Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign which tracks campaign spending, said the GOP incumbents were "clearly raising money much faster and at a much accelerated pace."

McCabe said he anticipated spending in several, if not all, of the races to top $1 million. The most ever spent on a single state Senate race was $3 million in 2000 in northwestern Wisconsin's 10th District race won by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, who is one of the six Republicans now facing a recall.

Harsdorf reported raising $328,000 through the end of June while her Democratic challenger, Ellsworth teacher Shelly Moore, raised $237,000. Harsdorf had more cash on hand — $141,000 compared with nearly $92,000 for Moore.

The reports filed Tuesday didn't capture money being spent by outside groups on the races. But they did show that at least one so-called "protest" candidate was making much of a dent.

Fake Democrats were recruited by the Republican Party to challenge real Democrats in order to delay the general election by a month to Aug. 9. Those fake Democrats, dubbed "protest candidates" by the Republicans, were not actively campaigning in advance of the July 12 primary.

In the 10th District, fake Democrat and hardware store owner Issac Weix raised just $450 beyond a $750 in-kind contribution from the state Republican Party.

Weix, who ran and lost twice before as a Republican in state Assembly primaries in 2006 and 2010, said even though he was not actively campaigning, he still expects a close election against Moore.

"Everybody knows who everybody is," Weix said. "There is no doubt. Why anybody's advertising, it's a complete waste of time. Everyone's made up their minds. I'm not going to convince anybody to change their mind."

The other five fake Democratic candidates did not return messages seeking comment. Their reports, as well as reports for Republican incumbents Rob Cowles of Green Bay and Luther Olsen of Ripon, were not posted on the GAB website by close of business Tuesday.

Democratic state Rep. Fred Clark of Baraboo, who is challenging Olsen, raised $227,000 and had $163,000 cash on hand. Democrat Nancy Nusbaum, who is taking on Cowles, raised $177,000 and had $134,000 cash on hand.

Reports detailing how much had been collected and spent through the end of June had to be postmarked or submitted electronically by the end of the day Tuesday.

The Republicans were targeted for recall after they voted to support Gov. Scott Walker's changes to collective bargaining rights affecting public workers. Three Democratic senators who were among the 14 who fled to Illinois to block a vote on the bill also face recalls. Reports on spending in those three races are due Monday.

Elections in the three races targeting Democratic incumbents are set for July 19 and Aug. 16. The targeted Democrats are Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover and Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie.

If Democrats are able to pick up three seats in the Senate, they will gain majority control and be able to block passage of any legislation backed by Republicans and Walker.

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