Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Wide-Open Battle for 19th Assembly District

Four talented candidates battling for open district which runs from Bay View to East Side.

By - Jul 14th, 2014 02:19 pm

Assembly District 19 is a prime bit of Democratic Party real estate. It’s an urban ribbon running along the city’s entire lakefront from Bay View on the south through Downtown and north to the UW-Milwaukee campus. It also offers what amounts to political tenure; get elected in that district and you can probably hold the job forever.

That explains why there is so much talent – two lawyers, including a former Milwaukee County prosecutor, the chairwoman of Milwaukee County’s Board of Supervisors and a senior legislative aide – in the Aug. 12 primary in that Assembly district. There is no Republican candidate, so the winner will face Pirate Party candidate Joe Klein. The four want to replace Democratic Rep. Jon Richards, who is running for attorney general after 16 years in the Assembly.

Before we meet the candidates, meet Assembly District 19. According to a Legislative Reference Bureau profile:

*83 percent of its 57,546 residents were white when the district was drawn up in 2011. Hispanics and blacks each made up 6 percent; Asians, 4 percent. It was also 52 percent male.

*19 percent of its residents were between 20 and 24 years old, 42 percent between 25 and 54, and 17 percent older than 55.

*33 percent of the district’s 27,060 households reported annual incomes of $24,999 or less; 42 percent had incomes of between $25,000 and $74,999. One in 10 households had incomes of between $75,000 and $99,999.

*One in three residents lived in homes they owned; two of every three rented.

*Of the district’s 33,420 adults, 53 percent had a bachelor’s or other graduate or professional degree; 19 percent attended college but did not graduate; 16 percent had a high school diploma, and 7 percent did not finish high school.

All four candidates agree on several issues: Wisconsin should take federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents. The minimum wage should be raised. The idea of a Milwaukee-area regional transit authority must be resurrected to help the city’s poor get to jobs. Same-sex marriages must be legalized. Common Core educational standards should not be repealed. As for how they differ, here’s a detailed look (based on Wisconsin Eye interviews) at all four Democratic candidates (in alphabetical order) in Assembly District 19:

Dan Adams

Dan Adams

Dan Adams: The former Milwaukee County prosecutor now has a private criminal practice and visited 15 MPS schools to learn about education issues, which he says would be his top priority if elected. Adams says he represents too many black men between the ages of 17 and 35 facing  criminal prison sentences because they grew up wanting only to be “a tough guy” – a problem that can be fixed by better schools.

Adams stands out for touching a “third rail” issue in Milwaukee by supporting those School Choice and charter schools that are effective. “That’s something I’m not going to back away from,” he says. He would fight expansion of the Choice program statewide, however. Adams criticizes two of his opponents directly: Milwaukee County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic “is looking for a job as a placeholder for something else.” And Jonathan Brostoff would spend more time going around Wisconsin recruiting Democratic candidates than he would representing Milwaukee, Adams charges.

Jonathan Brostoff.

Jonathan Brostoff.

Jonathan Brostoff: The senior aide to Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson says he spent 16 years advocating for the poor and homeless, starting as a volunteer at age 14. Brostoff would end the School Choice program, calling it a “25-year failed experiment,” and reinvest money now spent on Choice on kindergarten for children ages 3 and 4, smaller class sizes and better pay for teachers. He also says state government should make “micro loans” to start-up businesses.

Brostoff wants medical marijuana and the recreational use of marijuana legalized and laws changed so that “non-violent drug offenses” are not prosecuted. Breaking up families by sending young adults to prison for non-violent drug crimes has caused “moral damage” to thousands of Milwaukee families, he says. Brostoff also criticizes Dimitrijevic, saying she supports proposals made by controversial Sheriff David Clarke.

Marina Dimitrijevic.

Marina Dimitrijevic.

Marina Dimitrijevic: The Milwaukee County board chair says she has spent 10 years working on local issues, and solving problems, and wants to go to the Legislature to stop Republican attacks on Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and “working families.”

“Many of the things we’re talking about, I’ve delivered on,” she says, citing passage of “living wage” and domestic partner ordinances and environmental protections.

In Madison, she says she try to “shut down” the School Choice program – one reason she has been endorsed by state and local teachers unions. Dimitrijevic also wants to revive a plan Milwaukee County voters approved in 2008 to raise the local sales tax to finance local transportation systems and other specific programs. “I don’t think there’s an expiration date” on that 2008 vote, she says. Now, “we can’t even get people to jobs.” What sets her apart from her opponents, Dimitrijevic says, is her record of working with everyone – even Republican Gov. Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive – to get things done.

Sara Geenen

Sara Geenen

Sara Geenen: As an attorney specializing in labor and retiree issues, Geenen calls “reinstating and protecting” collective bargaining that most public employees lost in 2011 “a very important thing….I grew up in a labor household.” Geenen also wants the School Choice program phased out “over the course of a few years” and statewide kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds started. The Choice program funds a “parallel” school system, she says.

To help pay for a projected $650 million deficit in transportation spending statewide by mid-2017, Geenen says she would “seriously consider” raising the gas tax, which has not been increased since 2006. It’s time to reconsider adjusting the gas tax each year for inflation, she adds.

Geenen says she is the only one of the four candidates who understands “how laws work in practice.”

Steven Walters is a producer for the non-profit public affairs network WisconsinEye. Contact him at    

19 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Wide-Open Battle for 19th Assembly District”

  1. land says:

    I think Adams might be the one to beat here,

  2. kk says:

    Really? I feel like word on the street is it’s between Marina and Jonathan.

  3. MP says:

    Thankful that we have 4 talented people running. I don’t think we need more lawyers though…

  4. Jeremy says:

    Having a hard time voting for either of the two who haven’t had real jobs (Brostoff or Marina). If this website is any indication, a Brostoff win would be another Bob Donovan inundation of press releases every other day.

  5. KK says:

    Lawyer vs. Public Service. They cancel each other out in the occupation department. Sorry lawyers. Sorry Public Service people. Donovan is a nut. No way is Brostoff close to that. He’s using social media like a mofo and it’s linked to his page. It’s the kind of the thing smart campaigns do now. Look at Obama vs Romney. O had an app for that! And it was a brilliant. I would find out who is running his social media and hire that person.

  6. capper says:

    With Adams supporting voucher schools, Act 10 and Abele, he is already an also ran candidate in this race. The district is too progressive to support this plutocratic sock puppet.

    The winner will be Dimitrijevic or Brostoff, with the edge going to Dimitrijevic due to her union support and Brostoff’s unfortunate turn to negativity.

  7. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I keep waiting for one of them to declare the Global Warming farce is over. Lake levels are way up cause of rain, and changes in the dredging areas. More cold weather, temps in last years actual down. Ice pak way up and less hurricanes, only 1.

  8. Steve says:

    The district favors a candidate that can draw votes on both the north and south ends of the district. On Marina will do that. Not excited about a County Board member getting a “promotion” but the race is hers to lose. Adams, Brostoff, and Dimitrijevic will split the Eastside and Dimitrijevic will get over 50% of Bay View. Geenan hasn’t got off her blocks.

    The August primary dilutes the turnout. No students to pump up the Eastside.

    Dimitrijevic with 38%, Brostorff 30%, Adams 21%, Geenan 11%.

  9. JambaJuice says:

    Isn’t it concerning to anyone that really none of the candidates are talking about innovative policy or the $1Billion in development being spent in the downtown part of the district?

    Isn’t it concerning that accepting reality now constitutes being “conservative”?

    Voucher schools are here to stay, lets be real, why are the candidates not talking about ways to shut down the bad ones, and regulate the “good” ones?

    Where is talk from any of the candidates about the street car?

    About urbanism?

  10. JambaJuice says:

    $1 Billion in development is going on in the district right now, and few of the candidates are talking about it, that is concerning to say the least.

  11. The Downtown Neighbors Association of Milwaukee, together with the League of Women Voters and the Milwaukee Public Library, will host a Candidate Forum as a free event, open to the public. Please join us to meet and learn more about each of the candidates running to become the next 19th District State Assembly representative.

    When: Monday July 21, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.
    Doors Open at 6:00 p.m.

    Where: Centennial Hall, Loos Room at the Central Library
    Enter 733 N. 8th Street

    Visit for more about the Downtown Neighbors Association

  12. Patty Thompson says:

    The Bay View Compass and Bay View Neighborhood Association forum with the four candidates running for the Wisconsin District 19 Assembly seat is:
    Monday, August 4, 7pm
    Doors open at 6:30pm
    Parkside School Auditorium (formerly Fritsche Middle School)
    2969 S. Howell Avenue.(One block north of Oklahoma)
    Street parking in the lot on the south side of the building
    Free and open to the public.
    The building and auditorium are wheelchair accessible.

  13. Andy says:

    Adams has “been in the trenches” when it comes to Milwaukee’s most challenging problems. We could really use someone like that. Dimitrijevic is off her rocker and made herself look completely out of touch with all the county board antics of the past year… I hope that’s enough to knock her out of contention.

  14. Brostoff is a dedicated progressive and knows how to get things done. Go Brostoff!

  15. Laura says:

    My only concern is that people will get to the polls and go with their “comfort zone” with a name they are already used to, like Dimitrijevic, just because they haven’t done the research.

    This is only one source, it clearly doesn’t go in-depth on every topic. So I hope people do their research.

    From what I’ve seen, Brostoff is the only one really out in the community proving that he has the energy, knowledge, and MOTIVATION to create movement and facilitate positive growth in the community. As far as Dimitrijevic goes… its as if she already thinks shes “got it in the bag”. If she’s slacking off now, what will she be like in the upcoming term?

    I want someone full time who is 100% focused on this position- that’s Brostoff. He’s the ONLY one committing to this FULL time. Everyone else treats it like a hobby. Its a big show for them… and at this point it has nothing to do with passion. Dimitrijevic might somehow “maintain” whats already there, but I want someone who has the energy and the time to take it up a notch.

  16. rk says:

    Andy, is the woman “hysterical” as well? Maybe she should lie down lest she have a fainting spell. Maybe in the 20th century…

  17. Steven and the voters can read my website and add me to the decision matrix. I do plan on making the legislative job a full time occupation as well as holding local forums and attending neighborhood groups as often as possible. I want to revive democracy driven from the grassroots as well as the rank and file. Read “what to expect” on my platform. I will make my office as open as one can in the Internet era, without violating the privacy of normal citizens. The rich guys and lobbyists, they stay on camera. – have anything you want to ask me or comment on, call me or message me 414 628-3380. – your servant, Joseph Thomas Klein –

  18. Nicholas says:

    I would like to have a representative that will fight for good schools, help grow the economy, support businesses that are already investing in Milwaukee and be able to bring together the pro Milwaukee stakeholders for the betterment of everyone.

    That’s only Dan Adams.

  19. Sherri Shell says:

    I too am concerned about Bay View residents voting for Marina Dimitrijevic because of name recognition.
    Any constitutient worth their vote will do their research and realize that we cannot rely on Marina.
    Her record alone indicates that she takes her job for granted.
    With all due respect, she does not seem to have the energy or the passion required for this job.

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