Republicans have found a spoiler candidate to challenge Rep. Jennifer Shilling in this summer's recall election, which would force a Democratic primary and extend the campaign by nearly a month.

James Smith, until recently a member of the La Crosse County GOP’s executive committee, says he is running as a protest candidate.

Smith, a regular fixture this spring at local labor protests this spring where he held signs touting his support for Gov. Scott Walker, said he resigned his party position Monday before announcing his candidacy. He said he does not plan on campaigning aggressively but wants to protest the recall process.

“I want to bring light on the issue that 22,000 signatures can pretty much overturn an election where even the loser got 40,000 votes,” he said Tuesday.  

Shilling’s campaign declined to comment Tuesday.

A"> letter addressed to "Fellow Conservative" and signed by Republican Party 3rd Congressional District chairwoman Maripat Krueger urges recipients to support James Smith's protest candidacy.

The letter, obtained by the Tribune, follows the same template as those sent in other senate districts.

Candidates hoping to get on the special election ballot have until Tuesday to gather 400 valid signatures on nomination papers.

The state GOP on Monday defended a strategy to encourage spoiler candidates to run in recall elections.

Stephan Thompson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement that Republican state senators face recalls for doing their jobs, unlike Democratic senators who he says deserted their constituents for Illinois.

The Tribune first reported on the strategy last week after obtaining a secret recording of a La Crosse County GOP meeting in which party leaders discussed finding a candidate to run against Shilling, who is challenging La Crosse Sen. Dan Kapanke.

The election is slated for July 12 unless a primary is necessary, in which case the general election would be pushed to Aug. 9.

Kapanke's campaign has denied involvement in the spoiler talks, and campaign manager Jen Harrington said the timing of the election is not a concern.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told The Associated Press today that running so-called protest candidates is a tool available to help Republican candidates have more time to campaign. He says the Republican senators have known about the plan for weeks.

Kapanke is one of six Republican lawmakers facing summer recalls. The Government Accountability Board will meet Wednesday to consider recall petitions against three Democrats. If those petitions are ruled sufficient elections will be scheduled for July 19.


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