06/02/2011 01:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wisconsin GOP Discusses Planting Democratic Spoiler Candidate In Recall Election (AUDIO)

WASHINGTON -- Republicans in Wisconsin's La Crosse County recently discussed the possibility of finding a spoiler candidate to run against Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) in the race to recall state Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse), a scenario they say would cost Democrats more money and delay the entire election.

The revelation, first published by the La Crosse Tribune, came from a secret recording made during the party's general membership meeting on May 25.

On the recording, which was obtained by The Huffington Post, La Crosse County Republican Party Vice Chairman Julian Bradley is heard recounting a conversation he had with Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the state party. "[W]e are actively keeping our ears to the ground and if anybody knows anybody for a candidate that would be interested on the Democratic side in running in the primary against Jennifer Shilling ... if anybody knows any Democrats who would be interested, please let us know," he said.

Kapanke is one of Democrats' top targets in the effort to recall the Republican senators who voted for a controversial measure stripping collective bargaining from the state's public workers. So far, his only challenger is Shilling, and the La Crosse Tribune recently reported that neither were expected to have any primary competitors.

The election is expected to be held on July 12, unless more than one challenger comes forward. If that happens, the state may have to push back the election date -- a scenario that, as Bradley notes on the tape, "would give the state senator an extra month to campaign in. The opposition would obviously have to spend more time and more money."

La Crosse Republican Party Chairman Bill Feehan told the La Crosse Tribune that he hadn't attended the meeting and wasn't familiar with the discussions on the tape.

"There's nothing official to it," Feehan said. "I'm sure that people would like to see a contested primary for the Democrats. I'm sure there are people who recognize that would be beneficial (for Kapanke)."

Later in the recording, one of the other members in the room seems to express some nervousness about the discussions taking place: "I just hope that these meeting are not public. Or the minutes aren't public?"

"The minutes for our meetings are not public," responded Bradley. "There are no recording devices that should be on except for our own -- that's our own -- this is for our party only."


Kapanke also showed up to the meeting -- although after the conversation about a spoiler candidate had ended -- and said he hopes public employees don't show up to vote on the day of his recall election.

"So, we're going with our campaign, we're doing whatever we can," said Kapanke. "But we've got tons of government workers in my district -- tons, from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien and to Viroqua and to Ontario and to Hillsboro, you can go on and on and on. We have to overcome that. We gotta hope that they, kind of, are sleeping on July 12th, or whenever the date is."