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Election day has come and gone, and some of the results in the primary contests are satisfying – but also quite a bit troubling.
Leading the satisfaction category is the reelection of John Chisholm as District Attorney for Milwaukee County. Chisholm beat Verona Swanigan, 65% to 35%.
There was never any question about who was most qualified to be the DA. Chisholm had been an assistant DA for 12 years before being elected in 2006. He has been aggressive in prosecutions and has drawn national praise for his innovations like putting assistant DAs in the community to be closer to those involved in the system.
Swanigan, on the other hand, was what I call a sham candidate. She didn’t have a fundraising operation or a campaign committee that developed strategies. She was largely absent from media scrutiny.
Instead, she was backed by big right-wing money that bought thousands of dollars of television time. Eric O’Keefe, who was part of the target of the John Doe probe into Scott Walker’s campaign, an investigation run by Chisholm, was the big backer both financially and in getting other Tea Party members to contribute.
O’Keefe wanted someone to run against Chisholm, and he tabbed Swanigan to be directed by Craig Peterson, a nice guy and Republican operative, who ran the campaign. What he ended up with was a woman with a checkered past who had only tried one case in Wisconsin. Most of her work was handing out eviction notices for one of Milwaukee’s most notorious landlords.
This was a deserving win for Chisholm, but there was something frightening about it too.
27,570. That’s the number of people who actually voted for Swanigan. Only about 16 percent of registered voters bothered to go to the polls Tuesday, but still. That’s a lot of people who actually voted for a candidate who didn’t have any business being the district attorney. She was nothing more than a tool for Tea Party interests who were more interested in revenge than anything else.
No matter how I try to understand, I can’t quite wrap my head around 27,570 people who cast ballots for Swanigan. What in the world could they possibly have been thinking? Perhaps it’s the Trump effect of people voting against any incumbent. I hope that’s it.
Another sham candidate went down easily when businessman Paul Nehlen lost to Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. Nehlen had no name or qualifications, but he was also backed by big right wing money. The Tea Party gang doesn’t like Ryan, and they pulled out all the money stops to beat him.
Both Swanigan and Nehlen prove the old adage that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
One more race of some interest was in the 4th congressional district in Milwaukee. Incumbent Gwen Moore beat former State Sen. Gary George.
At one point in his life, George was one of the most powerful men in the state as Chairman of the Joint Finance Committee. He was famous for his backroom dealing, but he was often ethically challenged.
He claimed to live in his district in the city but, in fact, lived in a large house in Grafton. I worked for him for several years, and I know the truth of that ruse. He was eventually charged by the federal government with a variety of violations, including taking kickbacks on public contracts.
(Full disclosure: I played a role in those kickbacks and testified at his trial. He was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to defraud the government. He was disbarred but got his license back.)
He didn’t really run much of a campaign, relying on the hope that people might remember him with enough love to elect him.
For Swanigan, Nehlen and George, the message sent by the voters came from a Beatle’s song: "Can’t Buy Me Love."
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.
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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.