Abele Goes O-fer On Election Night
Sheriff Clarke wins democratic primary. Plus: The rest of election night's winners and losers.
One takeaway from Tuesday’s partisan primary elections is that County Executive Chris Abele has a way to go before he can consider himself a political kingmaker, or “imperialist leader,” as Sheriff David A. Clarke called him in a post-election interview.
Abele supported Chris Moews in his narrow defeat at the hands of the renegade Democrat sheriff. In this he was probably joined by a majority of the Democrats who cast ballots in the election.
But even so Clarke beat Moews by 59,191 votes to 54,549. His winning margin, Clarke said in a victory speech, was due to the influence of talk radio.
“Without the air support of talk radio, this would have been very difficult to do,” Clarke was quoted as saying in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Not many Democrats would make such a comment, or receive such support from the AM radio frequencies.
This may have been a rare instance in which crossover voting — as recommended by the talk radio hosts and even by Mr. Republican himself, Tommy G. Thompson — was effective.
With no Republican party primary in Milwaukee County, it appears suburban voters bypassed the Republican side of the ballot, and voted for Clarke.
Although the 2014 canvass is not yet available, consider this: In 2010, Clarke and Moews faced off for the first time. Clarke won with 30,539 votes to Moews’s 26,727 out of a total 57,266 votes cast. This year, there were 113,740 votes cast in the sheriff’s race — nearly twice as many. It is significant to note that in 2010 there was a Republican contest for governor, and nobody on talk radio or elsewhere was suggesting crossover voting for Clarke. Not while their boy Scott Walker’s future was at stake.
“I want this to be a message to Chris Abele that the voters of Milwaukee County want me to run the office of the sheriff,” Clarke said during an interview with WTMJ-AM (620). “At some point, this man is going to have to realize that he’s not an imperialist leader.”
However, the sheriff’s race was not Abele’s only foray into endorsements and support.
As I reported in January, Abele was the headliner at the campaign kickoff at the Belmont for Dan Adams, who he recruited to run for the 19th district assembly seat vacated by Jon Richards in his unsuccessful quest for Attorney General. (Abele also supported Richards.) Abele felt Adams could win in the field of four candidates which included his nemesis, County Board Chairman Marina Dimitrijevic.
At the time, Abele said, “Dan’s the right guy and I will do everything I can to help him win.” Abele gave the maximum $500 to the Adams campaign, and put an Adams sign in his yard. But Adams lost to Jonathan Brostoff, who held his campaign victory party at the Belmont — the same place where the Adams campaign began.
Abele also supported his former staffer Tia Torhorst in her quest for the 10th District Assembly seat vacated by Rep. Sandy Pasch, and gave her campaign sign a place in his yard right next to the one for Adams. But Terhorst was decisively defeated by first-term Supervisor David Bowen, who faces no Republican opposition in November.
Bowen and Abele have a history, since Bowen successfully legislated a minimum wage policy for County work, which the Board passed and Abele vetoed. Bowen was then successful in overriding the veto. Bowen will join a number of young Democratic legislators from our area in the next assembly. We are certainly in the midst of a generational shift here.
So, it’s zero for 4 for Abele this go-round.
Other Electoral Observations
Susan Happ’s victory as the Democratic candidate for Attorney General with 52% of the votes in a three-way race was to me the biggest surprise of the evening. Richards had raised the most money, for sure, but as Bruce Murphy noted last week, while most people were expecting a race between Richards and Ozanne, the Jefferson County latecomer to the election secured an outright majority, which is a formidable accomplishment. … Another surprise for me was the Glenn Grothman victory in the 6th Congressional district, as reported by the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal, which had a banner headline in the Wednesday Local section reading, “Grothman easily wins 6th District GOP primary.”
According to reporter Don Behm, Grothman “convincingly defeated” his three rivals in the Republican primary to replace outgoing Rep. Tom Petri. With what was reported as 87% of the total vote recorded, Grothman had 20,110 votes to his nearest opponent, Joe Leibham’s 15,921. The margin was sufficiently large that the AP projected it as a win.
Not so fast, we learned Wednesday. The Sheboygan County Clerk had to manually tabulate votes after a computer failure, and at this time the convincing defeat of Leibham is now called “the closest state congressional race in decades.” Grothman’s lead is now set at around 200 votes. As it turns out, Sheboygan cast the most votes of any county in the low-turnout 6th district race, and most of those votes went to Leibham, the hometown candidate. It may take some time — and possibly a recount — to resolve this one.