Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Abele Goes O-fer On Election Night

Sheriff Clarke wins democratic primary. Plus: The rest of election night's winners and losers.

By - Aug 13th, 2014 04:08 pm
Sheriff David Clarke.

Sheriff David Clarke.

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.

Clarke was clearly pleased with his crossover appeal. As quoted in the Journal Sentinel, he said:

“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.

Jonathan Brostoff.

Jonathan Brostoff.

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.

Susan Happ.

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.

13 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Abele Goes O-fer On Election Night”

  1. PMD says:

    Definitely surprised by Susan Happ’s victory. Does she have a chance against Schimel? Here’s hoping a recount has Leibham beating that clown Grothman.

  2. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    PMD- Happ won every county last night, including Dane and Milwaukee County (where the other two candidates were from). Does she have a chance? I think Schimel’s quaking in his boots. There’s no way he gets that kind of broad-based support across Wisconsin, and now he’s gotta defend anti-woman policies against a woman.

    Seriously, how is the guy who threw the case against Scott Jensen in Waukesha County going to play the “tough prosecutor” card against a Harley-riding woman from Jefferson? That won’t fly outside the bubble.

  3. PMD says:

    Quaking in his boots? Really? I don’t like him at all and will not be voting for him, but he will be able to raise a lot of money, and I think he feared Richards more than Happ. But I’ll be happy to be proven wrong come November.

  4. roz says:

    so, we continue to have clarke as sheriff because of republicans?????????

  5. Allison says:

    Actually Clarke ran up large margins within the African American precincts that traditionally vote democrat, too. That helped put him over the top.

    The huge money spent by the left (both instate and out of state) to take down a county-wide elected African American leader upset alot of people on the right and left.

  6. PMD says:

    There was a lot of out of state money from both sides in this one Allison. Let’s not pretend it was one-sided.

  7. Allison says:

    PMD actually it was one sided.

    Abele and Bloomberg dumped $600k to get rid of Clarke. Clarke was outspent at least 6 to 1, let’s not pretend it was even close.

  8. PMD says:

    How much did the NRA give Clarke. And 80% of his individual contributions came from outside of Wisconsin, in addition to more than 60% of his total campaign funding coming from outside the state.

  9. Allison says:

    Actually, all the NRA did was send around an appeal to its members to help out David Clarke. They didn’t spend $600k like Bloomberg and Abele. Clarke was vastly outspent, anyone listening to a radio or watching TV could clue you in on that. The anti-Clarke ads were everywhere.

  10. PMD says:

    So did they spend any money on Clarke? And yes I realize a lot of money was spent supporting Moews. That’s why I said both sides. Look at the huge percentage of out of state money spent on Clarke. Significant amounts of outside money was spent on both sides, not just one. I don’t like all that money coming from out of state, no matter which side is receiving it.

  11. Kyle says:


    Of course, they don’t bother to give you any totals for each party, but they at least lay out most of the sources in this race. The bulk of the non-campaign spending does appear to be local though, for both sides.

  12. Andy says:

    Abele and team’s biggest mistake was going after Clarke for his stances and not his actions. In addition, Moews gave voters little information on his positions and plans for what he would do when Sheriff except “work better with others.” Too many people actually support Clarke’s positions, even if they dislike his tactics, for that to have worked.

  13. PMD says:

    I totally agree Andy. The outside money came too late and Moews never gave people on the fence enough of a reason to vote for him. Considering Clarke’s name recognition and standing as an incumbent, I am surprised Moews did as well as he did. I think a halfway decent candidate who got the word out would have beaten Clarke.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us