Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

5 Election Takeaways

A horrible turnout, a big night for Evers, and who the heck is William Crowley?

By - Feb 22nd, 2017 10:24 am
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Tony Evers, Valarie Hill and William Crowley.

Tony Evers, Valarie Hill and William Crowley.

What did we learn from Tuesday’s spring primary election? The biggest takeaway is the general apathy towards actually voting. The polling places were dead and the turnout was terrible, both in Milwaukee and throughout the state.

But for those of us who actually showed up, what happened? Municipal Judge Valarie Hill scored a big win, but will it be enough to hold on to her job? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers beat the pants off his two challengers. And William Crowley scored a surprise victory — who is he?

1. Shame on Wisconsin for Not Voting

Turns out all that post-Presidential election energy was used up posting memes on Facebook about Donald Trump. In Milwaukee there are 352,765 registered voters, and only 8.67 percent of them bothered to vote in yesterday’s election. The numbers don’t get any better when you look at the state, with 360,559 voters casting ballots, approximately eight percent of registered voters.

Here’s a challenge to everyone that did take the time to vote: convince one friend to vote in the general election. Make their life easy and agree to go vote early with them at City Hall. No excuses about not knowing where to vote, when to vote, what’s on the ballot or having to wash their hair.

The general election takes place on April 4th. Polls open at 7 a.m. Learn more about where to vote and who’s on the ballot by visiting the state’s My Vote Wisconsin site.

2. Valarie Hill Might Lose

Hill, the incumbent Municipal Judge, won the battle on Tuesday, but she might lose the war. She received almost two-and-a-half times more votes than the second-place candidate, but still failed to receive even half of the total votes cast in the race. Hill will face William Crowley head-on now, with Crowley likely to pick up a substantial number of the votes in the general election that were split between the other two challengers on Tuesday.

3. Tony Evers Crushes Challengers

The incumbent state superintendent crushed the competition on Tuesday. Evers garnered a resounding 69.7 percent of the vote. Evers has held the office for eight years, having been elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.

It’s unlikely he’ll be able to repeat such a strong performance in the general election, with outside groups poised to spend in support of challenger Lowell Holtz now that the field has been cleared.

Holtz, a school choice proponent, unfortunately isn’t likely to see financial support from a big-time school privatization supporter. The new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, whose family has contributed millions to candidates and political action committees, particularly in Wisconsin, stated that “If I’m confirmed I will not be involved or engaged in political contributions and my husband will not be either” during her recent confirmation hearing.

4. The Rise of Bill Crowley

In a rather tough-to-predict Municipal Court race, not a single person I talked to had William Crowley finishing in the top two. Yet, Crowley did it, coming in second with just over 19 percent of the votes. So the surprise winner now faces Hill in the general election.

A handful of political insiders noted that the last time Crowley ran for office he didn’t even manage to get on the ballot. Crowley was one of four candidates who didn’t appear on the 2012 spring ballot because of issues with their nomination papers. Crowley had attempted to challenge fourth district Alderman Robert Bauman.

5. Decker and Michel Split Votes, Humphries and Holtz Don’t

Based on anecdotal surveying of people leading up to the race, many voters I encountered were wavering between Kail Decker and Brian Michel for their municipal court judge selection. That appears to have hurt both candidates. Decker finished with 4,342 votes and Michel pulled in 4,880, thus opening the door in a four-way race for Crowley to finish second with 5,356 votes.

Perhaps the biggest insult to Decker and Michel? Of the 30,601 people that voted yesterday in Milwaukee, 2,743 voted only in the State Superintendent race. Either candidate would have finished second if they could have simply received half of those votes.

On the top of the ballot, John Humphries and Lowell Holtz didn’t suffer the same fate. Humphries (7.4 percent) got trounced by Holtz (22.9 percent). Humphries’ campaign had a number of problems and unforced errors, which may have made it easy for conservatives or voters looking for change to pick Holtz.

14 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: 5 Election Takeaways”

  1. Sam says:

    Well, the turnout was almost twice the average turnout usually is for state superintendent primaries. So that’s good, I guess.

    As for the municipal judge race, there was little to no information out there on any of the candidates. Voting for judges, absent some big scandal coming out to sway opinion, is tough. I don’t even think judges should be elected positions. Lay people don’t really know a good candidate from a bad one anyways. Perhaps that’s why so many didn’t feel comfortable deciding?

  2. Jess says:

    Sam – there was a pretty good write-up in the Shepherd Express that went over all the candidates for Municipal Judge. A quick google search got me to it and helped me decide on my choice.

  3. It’s time to eliminate odd year elections.

  4. How much advantage did Crowley have by being the first name on the ballot? Enough to stay ahead of Decker and Michel? There is a bump there but is it enough to cover that spread?

  5. Dorothy says:

    Many politicians don’t interact with their constituents. But they are quick to ask for their vote. In December 2016 I called the offices of Tom Barrett, Gwen Moore, and Lena Taylor. Still waiting for a call back.

  6. Jason says:

    I just wanted to give kudos to the creatures on the left. Your turn out impressed me, well done.

  7. Jason says:

    Crowley, seemed to helicopter his brochures all over downtown. I hope his volunteers take off all those brochures that are attached to news boxes, utility boxes, traffic poles and so forth. Please keep downtown looking clean and congrats on your win.

  8. Lucy Cooper says:

    Municipal court is important but very much “under the radar” because the headline grabbingcriminal cases or big personal injury cases don’t go there.

    Poor people with ordinance violations and property owners with code violations go there
    But the impact is huge in lives. Unpaid fines can morph into license suspensions, warrants, etc and the litigants are often mentally ill or hapless.

    The property owners are often absentee landlords who get away with never really repairing their properties.

    Val Hill drew 3 opponents because people who know the Ian and outs of muni court think she is mean to the poor folks and not very interested in cracking down on the landlord code violators. Unfortunately, the major newspaper never covered this race or connected it to their series abouttabout the scandal of lax treatment of landlords…

  9. blurondo says:

    It appears that unless there are dark money, inflammatory, knee-jerk ads on TV no one knows or cares that there is and election.

  10. Lucy Cooper says:

    Municipal court is under the radar, under-reported and very important in the lives of low income people.

    This is the court where bad landlords go to deal with code violations in the houses poor people live in.

    This is the court where what started as a ticked someone didn’t pay can morph into years if increasing fines, license suspensions, warrants, etc. Many defendants are mentally ill or are scraping along at the bottom of society. And some are just irresponsible scofflaws. It is the job of a good judge to discern who is who in this mess.

    Valerie Hill drew opponents because the lawyers and agency workers who DO know the importance of muni court believe she is too harsh with many poor defendants and too lax in going after bad landlords once the city finally hauls them into court.

    The main newspaper never connected the dots between the muni court race and its own series about bad landlords, although the information was there.

    Maybe most voters just don’t care and are only motivated by scandal in judicial contests.

  11. Sam says:

    @ Jess

    I saw the Shepherd’s piece posted the day of the election. is that the one you are talking about?

    It is pretty skimpy on details and seems more of an endorsement piece than educational piece on the candidates.

  12. Peter Gordy says:

    I live in an inner-ring suburb, so that I was unable to vote in the municipal court elections, only for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Had I been able to vote in all of yesterday’s primary races, I would still have had the same problem I had with only one position open, namely that getting information, even that there was a primary election on the 21st, was difficult. I only became aware of the SSPI primary through an article on the ludicrous Holtz-Humphries “deal” that either was or wasn’t on Monday. The tawdriness of the proposed arrangement for the appointed position, to be financed by the taxpayer, was enough to have kept me for voting for either Holtz or Humphries, even before I read of their hostility to ordinary public schools, but, were it not for Urban Milwaukee, which alerted me, I would have been unaware of my ability to vote against them on Tuesday. As for the Municipal Court elections, in which I could not vote, I must agree with Sam and Lucy Cooper that they are, in the latter’s words, “under the radar, under-reported .” and with her view that they are of crucial importance to the lives of low income people in the city, Ms. Cooper’s point about the Journal-Sentinel’s not “connecting the dots” is well-taken. Local elections, even primary ones, should be big news. Unfortunately, for major media outlets in this town, which Urban Milwaukee is not, they are not.

  13. Ben T says:

    From my experience, most voters are just unaware of these smaller elections.

  14. Bonnie says:

    Have to agree with Ben………..most people are totally unaware of these elections until they are over!

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