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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

It's a crowded field for the 5th district Milwaukee County Board of Supervisor's seat. (PHOTO: Wikipedia)

A crowded field in the 5th district


More than a decade ago, in a little-interest school board election in Milwaukee, everybody was surprised when a barely-known poet and creative writing teacher won by beating a lawyer who had the support of the establishment.

Peter Blewett, who was painted as a humorous dilettante by most of the members of the right-wing media, beat attorney Ann Howe, who had endorsements coming out of her lawyer's briefcase.

Blewett brought a passionate progressive viewpoint to the school board, which is noted for it's inability to really do anything that matters. He even served a couple of terms as the president of the board, which is something like being named captain of the Titanic.

Blewett always fought the good fight. He struggled to try and move the ship in a direction that made sense. But being on the school board would sap the strength of Samson, and it soon became time for Blewett to move on.

They redrew the maps and created a district that was majority Latino, and Blewett found himself looking around for something to do.

Aha! County Board Chairman Lee Holloway was going to retire. His 5th district had been redrawn and was now much more diverse than before.

While it had always been a safe seat for a black candidate, the door was open now to a vigorous non-black candidate.

Well, here comes Blewett. He's got a couple of allies on the board. He's got a long line of prominent Democrats who have contributed to his campaign. And he says all the right things.

He wants the county to be involved in transportation, restoring the parks, helping in the education of our kids, providing care for the elderly, and "going green." He's a traditional progressive and can be counted on to be a staunch member of the left wing of the board.

"Everybody needs county government," he said when I talked to him last week.

Let's remember that the County Board stopped having people who cared about statesmanship when Roger Quindel and Tom Bailey left the board.

And I might well take issue with Blewett's claim that we really need all the county government we have. But Blewett is going to try and one thing he faces is a host of black candidates, including two who are powerful names.

One is Russell Stamper II. His dad was a judge for many years and has a big name. His father is also the man who reacted to the killing of Osama Bin-Laden by saying: "I was saddened. You murdered a man. For me, if the choice is condemnation of the CIA, DEA, FBI and IRS or Osama bin Laden, it's an easy call. I remain unconvinced that bin Laden committed the 911 attack, whereas we know the lettered government organizations are thieves, assassins, dope peddlers, government destabilizers, did I say assassins, arms purveyors and various and sundry other planetary criminals."

Say what you will, the Stamper name carries a bit of cachet in the black community.

Even if he gets past Stamper, and a bunch of other people running in the primary next week, Blewett will be right in the path of the Coggs political juggernaut, the closest thing we have to a political dynasty in Milwaukee.

One of the candidates is Priscilla Coggs-Jones. Coggs-Jones comes from a family legacy of her grandparents Isaac and Marcia Coggs who started in public service in 1952. Her mother is State Representative Elizabeth M. Coggs and her cousins are State Sen. Spencer Coggs, State Rep. Leon Young and Ald. Milele Coggs.

Priscilla is relatively famous in the community for starting a youth summit called "Bridging the Gap." She is, in spite of that jewel in her crown, going to be a formidable candidate.

The 5th district has been a solidly black one for decades. But with a new map which moves the district east and south to Downtown and the Third Ward, we'll see what happens.

Blewett, who is a very nice guy and who knows a lot about government, is both hoping and betting that he's got more than a fighting chance so he can continue his quixotic battle against the political establishment.

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