The election for Milwaukee County Executive will be held Tuesday April 5th. The election promises to be close in a county proven to be evenly divided between liberal and conservative voters. The election has been hijacked by the events transpiring in Madison and voters are likely to project their feelings regarding the Budget situation onto the county executive election. Despite the increased attention on the race because of a spike in general political interest, voter turnout will still be low making this election a battle of the party bases.
Special elections are a better indication than any poll can provide as to the mindset of the electorate as well as the motivation and organization of the base of each party between the predetermined election cycle.
This election is between Jeff Stone, currently a State Assemblyman representing Greendale in the Wisconsin Legislature and Chris Abele, the philanthropist who has been CEO of the Argosy Foundation in Milwaukee since 2004. Stone and Abele expressed in a recent candidate forum that they disagree on public employees having the right to collectively bargain. Stone voted for the Budget Repair Bill that would eliminate the right except for wages up to the rate of inflation. Abele agrees with the increased contributions by employees to their health and pension benefits but does not support stripping collective bargaining. Since collective bargaining has become the political supernova of not only Wisconsin but the United States, it is likely to determine the election, therefore turning the election into a simple referendum on Walker's bill and budget.
The office of County Executive is a non-partisan position meaning the candidates Chris Abele and Jeff Stone do not run with the affiliations of political parties (Republican, Democrat...etc). The primary operated as a run off amongst all candidates that collected the necessary signatures, filed the proper paper work and paid the applicable fees. From the beginning the Republican establishment in Milwaukee County was behind Jeff Stone, while Chris Abele was able to distinguish himself in the crowded Democrat field largely by his ability to purchase a presence through local advertising.
While the Republicans are looking for a local arm of the Walker Administration, the Democrats are throwing their support behind Abele who is likely to have further political aspirations beyond the County Executive office. Still the political stakes are huge for both parties.
Just as the DNC was not shy about contributing to Lena Taylor in 2008 in an attempt to cut Walker off at the pass towards his eventual Governorship, the RNC will likely show strong support for Stone down the stretch if he is in need.
Democrats are desperately in need of a talking point that is firmly backed up by numbers from the electorate. They would likely phrase an Abele victory as a rejection of Walker's approach to government.
About the Author: Shaun Booth is editor of MilwaukeeStory.com.