Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

7 Election Winners and Losers

Unions, Hmong community and county infighters were among the winners.

By - Apr 5th, 2017 01:27 pm
Election Winner and Losers

Election Winner and Losers

Beyond the ballots and candidates who won or lost there were other trends, winners and losers also worth noting, including:

Winner: Women

It was a good night for female candidates. They prevailed in nearly all the major local races with Valarie Hill defeating William Crowley and Kashoua “Kristy” Yang defeating Scott Wales. Paula Phillips also defeated Joey Balistreri for a school board seat. Annie Woodward also retained her school board seat, defeated challenger Aisha Carr. One exception: School Board Vice President Larry Miller retained his District 5 seat, defeating challenger Kahri Phelps-Okoro.

Winner: Milwaukee’s Hmong Community

Milwaukee’s Hmong community scored a huge victory on Tuesday with the election of Kashoua “Kristy” Yang to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Yang is the first female Hmong-American judge elected in the country, and only the second Hmong-American judge. Yang, an Oak Creek resident, defeated Fox Point resident Scott Wales, by winning the city with 63% of the vote, Shorewood and West Milwaukee with 61% of the vote, and narrow victories in eight other suburbs including Wauwatosa and West Allis.

Wisconsin’s Hmong-American community is the third largest in the country behind California and Minnesota.

Loser: Civic Engagement

In Milwaukee County just 14.8 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election. In the city that number dropped to 13.24 percent. Those numbers are up from the primary, but are still embarrassingly low. As I remarked after the primary “turns out all that post-Presidential election energy was used up posting memes on Facebook about Donald Trump.

People will forever complain about political advertising, but it appears to be one of the few things that actually gets them to vote. I talked to a number of people yesterday that had no idea there was an election because they didn’t see any ads.

What can we do to get more people to vote?

Winner: Tony Evers

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction won comfortably, earning another four years at the helm of Wisconsin’s public schools. Evers, who also had a commanding win the primary, wasn’t sweating the results election night. When a Wisconsin State Journal reporter got in touch with him for a comment on his election night win he wasn’t at a party in a hotel ballroom or watching results in a war room. Where was Evers? At home playing the card game Euchre with his family.

How dominating was his win? The Associated Press called the race for Evers 35 minutes after polls closed. A number of poll workers across the state hadn’t finished cleaning up by the time the race was called.

Winner: More Shameless In-Fighting at the Milwaukee County Courthouse

Members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors wrote a referendum to fail and fail it did. The referendum’s language offered the oddly-personal question “Do you support County Executive Chris Abele’s proposal for a $60 Vehicle Registration Fee (wheel tax) to provide designated funding for transit and transportation-related projects?” — clearly designed to paint Abele in a bad light.

The board’s logic in pushing for a guaranteed-to-fail referendum is difficult to fathom. They already voted to approve a $30 vehicle registration fee as part of the 2017 budget, cutting in half Abele’s request for $60, but still supporting the financing mechanism. And with a number of one-time federal grants running out, Milwaukee County is going to increasingly need the wheel tax funds to actually run the Milwaukee County Transit System.

Fast forward a few years and this whole charade is virtually assured to come back to embarrass the board. A vehicle registration fee is one of the few ways Milwaukee County can raise funds without the support of the state legislature and governor. Pick your poison, but any combination of rising fuel prices, cuts to state mass transit aid, cuts to federal mass transit programs, or declining ridership will require the county to find more funds to simply maintain the system. County Comptroller Scott Manske already warned the board that a $60 fee isn’t likely to be enough to maintain the needs of the system. Sacrificing the wheel tax in an attempt to tar-and-feather Abele is going to seem real short-sighted real fast.

Loser: Competitive Elections

The Milwaukee ballot had more candidates running unopposed than total candidates in contested races. Most starkly, incumbent Michelle Ackerman Havas ran unopposed for Milwaukee County Circuit Court despite never having been elected to the office before. She was appointed by Governor Scott Walker. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler also won another 10-year term without a challenger.

Undervoting, where a voter doesn’t mark an item on the ballot, was a popular choice for voters this election. The uncontested races averaged over 20,000 undervotes in the city, almost as many votes as some of the candidates got. The oddity was an inconsistent amount of undervoting. One would expect someone to simply skip voting on all of the uncontested races if they skipped the first one, but that’s not what happened. For example, there were 19,292 undervotes in the city for Pedro Colon‘s one-man race, but Dennis Cimpl‘s election, the next one on the ballot, had 21,037.

An alarming number of people might have simply failed to flip over the ballot. The referendum, municipal judge race and sole contested circuit court judge race all offered two options for voters, yet each had at least 4,300 undervotes.

Winner: Teachers’ Unions

For the first time in a long time, it was a good election for public unions in Milwaukee. The two large teachers’ unions in the state won big on Tuesday. The Wisconsin Education Association Council scored a strong win with Evers commanding victory over Holtz. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association saw all of their endorsed candidates win or retain seats on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors.

Voucher school advocates failed to gain ground in Milwaukee on Tuesday, but it’s hard to label them a loser. The numerous groups promoting public funding of private schools have allies in Governor Scott Walker and the Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

13 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: 7 Election Winners and Losers”

  1. Sam says:

    “What can we do to get more people to vote?”

    While state elections at governor/senator level do fairly well in both awareness and turnout, local elections do not. For one, awareness isn’t usually at the same level in terms of the amount of and quality of coverage. Two, polarized electorates with Dems being in cities and Repubs in suburbs make for uncontested elections and lower voter turnout based on the fact that the election doesn’t matter. Finally, make elections holidays so people don’t have to choose between voting and working.

    So here is my 3 point plan to increase voter turnout from easiest to hardest:

    1. Make ALL election days holidays
    2. Increase the quality and quantity of news coverage for local elections
    3. Change where people live

  2. Virginia says:

    “What can we do to get more people to vote?”

    1. Start routinely teaching Civics again in all public schools.

    2. Have more nonpartisan public-service ads about voting and reminders of elections.

    3. Use social media to encourage voting, not just for sharing memes and dubious “news.”

    4. Try to make non-voting “uncool.”

    5. Encourage more citizen advocacy–and making the connection between achieving community goals and

    6. Private businesses have sometimes promoted voting in their ads.

  3. Dennis says:

    The wheel tax debate requires the added context that Chris Abele had never proposed a property tax increase until his 2017 budget, which proposed a $4 million property tax increase and $60 wheel tax. The County’s failure to increase property taxes to Walker’s cap worsened the fiscal situation Abele willfully ignored until after his 2016 reelection.

  4. Jason says:

    Loser, who ever gave Judge Wales political advice. Wales spent money in the Sheperd express, and the message was experience. His opponent Yang had no money and her message was clear. I will have more compassion for people of color when they commit crimes. Right there Yang shored up 25 percent of the vote. Wales then spends thousands of dollars on right wing talk radio and you would think he would have created a message like I will be strong on criminals. Nope, Wales sticks with I have experience. What the hell does that mean? No message again. Wales decides to punt on 25 percent of the voter base. What your left with is the 25 percent of the voter base that really knows nothing of the Judge race which Yang and Wales split . 10 percent that punt all together on the Judge’s race and only vote for State Superintendent or the referendum. What is left is Scott Wales base line of 15 percent.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    Maybe Wales didn’t want to pander with a dog whistle like “I will be strong on criminals.” Imagine that.

  6. Ted Chisholm says:

    @Jason: Judicial candidates can’t make political arguments. I volunteered for Wales but am confident Yang will be a good judge, and both of them ran clearly-messaged campaigns promising fair treatment informed by experience. Wales emphasized three decades of highly, highly respected legal experience and Yang emphasized her extremely inspiring life experience. There was no racial undertone to either campaign and to imply that is just inaccurate.

  7. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Fun fact- Dane County outvoted Milwaukee County on Tuesday. In fact, Dane County’s turnout went up by 18% vs 2013.

    So maybe people are woke and active on the left, but Milwaukee’s the exception. It’s also possible thay the right is in hiding these days of Trump (Waukesha and Washington were noticeably down vs 2013).

  8. Jason says:

    Ted, so Yang can make statements in Madison, like the reason so many black men are incarcerated is because there are a disproportionate amount of white judges and Wales could not comment on enforcing are laws. We have a dead city of Milwaukee employee because the judicial system failed him. A judge can not comment on that subject.

  9. I know people who voted against the wheel tax simply because the surrounding WOW counties also use our roads and they are not contributing beyond the state’s $75 registration tax for all. So they see it as a broader issue than the county.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    No one said Wales couldn’t comment. He’s a grown man and chose not to. Not everyone thinks like you do Jason. Imagine that.

  11. Mama says:

    How to increase Spring election votes:

    People need to be more aware of which judges are making what decisions. Thinking about municipal, circuit court, and state supreme court judges…I couldn’t tell you their names or who is softer on crime vs. who is harder. Who gets off the bench to do pro-active community work and who doesn’t. There is just nothing “out there” to inform the public. So we’re largely apathetic.

    Same with the school board. MPS is football that people love to kick around, scapegoat, and blame. But how many people can’t name more than one school board member? How many people could tell you what types of issuesschool board members have taken up lately?

    There’s not enough information/news put out about who these people are and what they do during their terms. That’s how you get apathy on Spring Election day.

  12. Catherine O'Neill says:

    To help get people to vote, I’d like Dems to do real community organizing: get list of non voters and go door to door asking them what it would take to become voters.

    Catherine O’Neill

  13. Let’s stop lamenting low voter turnout at odd year spring elections and just move these races to the previous even year fall elections.

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