By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Feb 18, 2004 at 5:17 AM

{image1} Voters in this city took a step toward determining the future of local government, and also played a role in extending the Democratic Presidential race Tuesday night.

Acting mayor Marvin Pratt and former Congressman Tom Barrett moved to the April election for mayor. Sheriff David Clarke, once considered a potential power in the race, finished a distant third.

In the Presidential primary, John Edwards, the only candidate to hold his party in Milwaukee, finished much closer to frontrunner John Kerry than expected. Howard Dean finished well behind in third, making that race a two-man contest the rest of the way.

There is no ignoring that race played a big part in the mayoral race. Polls showed that 85 percent of the African American voters in the election voted for Pratt, an African American. But, both he and Barrett emphasized bringing people together Tuesday night.

"We want to reach out to all parts of the City of Milwaukee," Pratt said. "We will broaden the scope of the campaign. We want a Milwaukee that is inclusive."

Barrett pointed out that he represented many African Americans as a Congressman. He also emphasized reaching out to all voters.

But, race could again be a big factor in the April election. African Americans in town are finally starting to realize what a force they can be in any city election. Pratt would be the city's first African American mayor.

Pratt did a great job of organizing on the grassroots in the African American communities. He could gain strength in those neighborhoods by April.

Barrett likely will position himself as an outsider at city hall and emphasize restoring integrity to local government, which has been racked by indictments and scandals the last couple years.

"I've been involved in government, but not in city government," Barrett said Tuesday night. "I certainly am not about the status quo in city government."

Pratt will likely counter by pointing out he has not been involved in any of the scandals, and his experience on the Common Council and as acting mayor is very important.

Clarke created so much stir early in his campaign, but slipped once the race really started. A gaffe that almost left him without enough signatures on his nomination papers undoubtedly hurt him.

Perhaps the most telling statistic was the Republican crossover vote for mayor. According to a TMJ4 poll, 54% of the people who consider themselves Republicans voted for Clarke.

If Clarke decides to run for office again other than sheriff, he should be upfront about his politics and run as a Republican. He also then had better run for a countywide spot, because the voters in the city still sway solidly Democrat.

Edwards' Message Hits Home

Edwards' message resonated well with many Milwaukee people, who have seen manufacturing jobs dwindle during the Bush Administration.

He capitalized in speeches and commercials on a meeting he had with Tower Automotive workers who recently lost their jobs.

On Tuesday morning, Edwards visited with people at the Brady Street Pharmacy before starting a back-breaking day of final campaigning. Even his choice of Serb Hall as the place for his party showed he connected with working people in Milwaukee.

"I believe in Senator Edwards and his message," said Don Wilant, who came to Edwards' party. "I believe in his plan for America. I believe he cares about working people."

John Kraus of Edwards' campaign staff said Milwaukee and Wisconsin voters "got it right" Tuesday night.

"Wisconsin has sent a clear message to the rest of the nation that this race is not over, and there is a clear choice between John Edwards and John Kerry," Kraus said. "There is a clear contrast between the two candidates on trade and jobs. I think that will become clear as it becomes a two-man race."

Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist and senior lecturer in journalism and mass communication at UW-Milwaukee. Versions of Milwaukee Insight appear in and

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Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.