Executive’s Race Could Get Crowded

There will be no deficit of Milwaukee County Executive candidates this spring. Many candidates think they have what it takes and several of them do, but the voters will certainly find themselves watching an amusing primary.

That being said, the position is not even yet open as County Executive and Governor-elect Scott Walker, who is expected to vacate his County seat at the end of the month. As of now, who will run is a matter of great speculation.

County Board Chairman Lee Holloway is rumored to be considering a run. Realistically, Holloway is unelectable County wide. His spate of bad press and some poor decisions could easily be exploited by any viable candidate who makes it through the primary. That being said, if there are more than 4 candidates, Holloway could win enough votes in the primary from the African American community which, if the pattern and the election numbers of recent years is a good indicator, will support Holloway if he is the only minority candidate. Holloway is also expected to be assuming the Executive’s seat as interim County Executive when Walker leaves so Holloway would be running from the position of being the incumbent, albeit self-appointed, but the incumbent all the same. Holloway’s chances of emerging through the general are slim to none.

State Representative Jeff Stone has already announced his intentions even before Walker has vacated it. He is Walker’s hand picked successor. Stone represents the City of Greenfield and other parts of the Southwest side of the County and will have a base. Plus, he is expected to be the only Republican to be entering this non-partisan race and for nearly a decade has been one of the darlings of right-wing talk radio. Stone is likely to emerge from a primary race as he has both his district and talk radio on his side.

Multi-millionaire philanthropist Chris Abele will soon announce. Little is known about him other than he donates to democrats. He will certainly have a monetary advantage as he could easily self-fund his own campaign. Abele has supported some worthwhile causes as well as candidates in the past. But little is known about him personally. He has never before, to the best of our knowledge, expressed an interest in running for elected office. Abele is a likable guy and to his credit, he has already lined up some great campaign advisors. One of those advisors is businessman Sheldon Lubar who has publicly stated that the County system should be disassembled, the same argument we have made here at Watchdog Milwaukee. The entry of Abele would serve to make that possible if he were to essentially advocate a position that would put himself out of a job. One thing that was not expected of Abele was his connection with Lubar. It is possible that this would put Abele in contention for more conservative votes, changing the entire recipe of a Jeff Stone candidacy.

County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic who represents the Bay View neighborhoods on the southside will certainly be the darling of the left side of the blogosphere. At just 29 she is smart, young and charming. She is said to have been the leader of some key County legislation that has made unions very happy so she has the potential to garner union support. That being said, union support in recent years has waned as they have made up a small portion of a candidates overall campaign funds. In most cases the unions have not bothered to do anything on races that would benefit their members. Dimitrijevic would be a good candidate as she already has a voter base as a sitting County Supervisor. She has been a vocal opponent of County Executive Scott Walker. All of that being said, Dimitrijevic would certainly have a leg up on the competition as she is expected to be the only female candidate and if she makes the right overtures, could garner a great deal of campaign funding from EMILY’s LIST.

County Supervisor John Weishan, who served his country as a Marine, represents West Allis and has been a leader on the County Board. As one of the most vocal opponents of Walker, he has gotten a decent amount of media attention in the past. He also has a sizable base of voters as his West Allis district has a respectable percentage of residents who vote. Weishan’s challenge would be campaign fundraising. That being said, if he runs he could be a formidable candidate in the general election.

County Supervisor Johnny Thomas represents a portion of the northwest side. He isn’t known to be a dynamic or proactive Supervisor and he would not be able to raise the kind of campaign cash necessary for a race of this size. Plus he has angered unions by voting for a contract in committee only to vote against it when it went to the full board.

State Senator Jim Sullivan who has served as a Navy Reservist and as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs committee, has the largest political base of any candidate in the field. Novices and partisans will incorrectly point out that his loss reflects his electability. A look at the numbers shows they would be gravely wrong. Sullivan’s State Senate district includes Republican strongholds in Waukesha County which Sullivan lost. If the race were held in just the Milwaukee County portion of his district, Sullivan would have retained the seat he narrowly lost. Having just come off of a race in November, Sullivan would still have the campaign organization and volunteers from his last race who he could fairly quickly mobilize. His populist message would resonate well with Milwaukee County voters. If Sullivan chooses to run he would be the immediate front runner as he would have a base of approximately 30,000 people who have already voted for him.

County Treasurer Dan Diliberti left the County Board to run for a seat with no legislative impact and no influence on legislation. He has served in the peace corps and is known to be a supporter of veterans issues. Perhaps he misses the policy aspects of County politics but there is no apparent, nor obvious attraction that Diliberti could have. He currently holds a primarily administrative constitutionally elected seat that has little influence on the policy workings of Milwaukee County. He would likely draw from the same base that Jeff Stone will draw from as his voting record as a County Supervisor were certainly to the right of center.

Former State Representative Sheldon Wasserman would certainly make a formidable candidate if he ran but that is unlikely since Chris Abele is in the race and Wasserman has said he would not run against Abele or Sullivan.



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