By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Dec 03, 2015 at 9:03 AM Photography: Molly Snyder

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Let’s make it clear that I like Chris Abele, and I think he’s a good Milwaukee County Executive.

I’ve known him for 10 years, ever since he was he was the main supporter of Milwaukee Shakespeare, and I like his politics. He’s a hard worker, and he’s not afraid of a fight – all qualities that I admire.

But there’s something that may be a little unseemly going on in his campaign for reelection, and I don’t know quite what to think about it.

The primary election is in February, and the general election in April. Abele has only one serious opponent, State Sen. Chris Larson, a certified liberal Democrat. Most observers think Larson’s challenge is a bit quixotic given Abele’s record and his obvious advantages in money and organization.

It’s the money thing that just seems to be a little bit ... too much.

Abele has four television ads running. He will have spent about half a million dollars in November on these commercials. You can see them day and night on all four major Milwaukee television stations.

The ads are slick, very slick, and they tout Abele’s record. A recurring theme is that Abele "funds his own campaign so he can say no to special interests."

The message from Abele’s campaign is that he is just running these ads to let voters know about all the things he’s done since he’s been in office. But I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck here. He is running these ads in hopes of scaring Larson off or beating him so soundly in the primary that nobody pays any attention to the general election.

Scott Walker used the same strategy in 2004 when an avalanche of pre-primary advertising led to a resounding victory over the hapless David Reimer, a liberal Democrat much like Larson.

Abele is wealthy. Very wealthy. He has spent a small fortune as a philanthropist, contributing to many organizations and groups, and demonstrating a real commitment to improving the lives of children and a deep belief in the value of the arts. Nobody begrudges him being wealthy.

But there is something about flaunting your wealth that makes me a little squirmy.

Some of what Abele is doing reminds me of the campaigns of Sen. Herb Kohl, who, I’m pretty sure, is a lot richer than Abele. Kohl spent a lot of money on television. But he was always plain spoken and accessible. He eats at Solly’s and Ma Fischer’s. He never had a bodyguard. He had a milk house at State Fair. He lived in the same apartment building for over a quarter of a century.

Abele gives off a different vibe.

He used to live in a mansion on Lake Drive. It has 13 bedrooms and 8 baths. Then he filed for divorce and has now bought two condo units in The Moderne, a ritzy building Downtown. He has six bedrooms, six full baths and two half baths.

One problem with all of this is perception and reality.

One ad has a Downtown restaurant manager saying, "Thanks to Chris Abele, the Bucks are staying here." That’s obviously stretching the truth.

Then there are the spots that show Abele in plaid shirt and blue jeans walking along a sun-dappled sidewalk with three women, chatting about things. My guess is that if you followed Abele around for a month, you’d still be wondering when he was going to meet three women and walk and chat with them.

I understand the nature of political advertising, and I know that money is vitally important in any campaign. But not always. Abele spent six figures to beat Sheriff David Clarke and lost that election.

This whole thing is mildly unnerving. It just seems like overkill. It makes you wonder if there is some private polling that Abele has done that shows he’s not as popular as he wants to be.

As I said, I like Abele, and I wish him nothing but the best. I just hope that this shower about all of his money doesn’t flow back and drown him in a negative reaction from the public.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.