Among the candidates for the Democratic nomination for Governor in the May 8 primary election is one Gladys Huber. To get on that primary ballot she was required to sign a notarized Declaration of Candidacy that began, "I, Gladys Huber, being duly sworn, state that I am a candidate for the office of Governor representing the Democratic Party."
Since this Mequon woman also ran for the Democratic nomination to oppose Sen. Alberta Darling (R, 8th) in the recall election of 2011, you might surmise that Gladys Huber is a budding Democratic politico. Except that she is a member of the Republican Party of Ozaukee County. She is openly running as a "fake Democrat" to make sure that the May 8 election will be a primary, not a recall general election. (Since four real Democrats are seeking this nomination, there would be a primary anyway.) Republicans are also running for Democratic nominations in each state senate district in which a Republican incumbent faces a recall election.
Attorney Jeremy Levinson has asked the Government Accountability Board (GAB) to remove all the fake candidates from the primary ballot saying, "This is a fraudulent scheme to reschedule some of the elections." But Attorney General J B Van Hollen said that "running under one party's banner while belonging to another did not violate election law." (1) So, who is right, who is wrong?
Since Wisconsin does not have partisan voter registration, being a Democrat, Republican, Green or whatever has no legal status. Primary voters pick a party in the privacy of the voting booth, and can switch parties every election if they wish. Even some states like New York, which has partisan registration, permits candidates to run on more than one ticket; for example, a registered Republican might also seek the Conservative Party nomination for some office. Wisconsin bars seeking the nomination of more than one party for a given office, but otherwise permits any qualified candidate to run in any primary. Unless the legislature establishes legal criteria for "representing" a political party on the ballot, the GAB has none to apply in evaluating the claim that a candidate is doing so fraudulently. The GAB is responsible for deciding matters of fact, such as whether a particular nomination paper or petition is valid, but not for deciding matters of opinion, such as whether a given candidate is a "real Democrat" or a fake one. Accordingly, the GAB must reject Levinson"s claims.
But is it not perjury for a person who belongs to the Republican Party to swear under oath that she "represents the Democratic Party?" Since both major parties include large numbers of people with widely varying political opinions, party membership alone should not preclude attempting to represent another party, especially since there is a substantial overlap between the platforms of the two major parties. (2) Although I consider the use of "fake Democrats" dishonest and reprehensible, I do not want the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute charges of falsely representing the agenda of a political party. The kind of intrusive inquiry of a person's political opinions needed to convict a candidate of perjury for filing a fake declaration would be more appropriate for a communist or fascist state than for our own. Just ask the ACLU! I would rather have fake candidates on the ballot than have political prosecutions!
But the issue of using fake candidates is certainly "fair game" in the political arena. Legitimate candidates should denounce this tactic in their campaign ads, and the voters should reject the party that used it. The verdict of the voters will speak louder than the verdict of any jury.
Gerald S Glazer
(1) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 11, 2012, page 3B.
(2) For example, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke was appointed by Republican Acting Governor Scott McCallum, and holds hard-right political opinions, but runs as a Democrat and has won every primary. Is he a "fake Democrat" too? I think so.