By Doug Hissom Special to Published Mar 09, 2007 at 5:22 AM

Timing is everything and we’re sure that the campaign of state Supreme Court candidate Annette Ziegler would have preferred an earlier roll out for her first radio ad–or not at all. Last week an ad featuring Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Outagamie County Sheriff Brad Gehring began airing around the state, intending to show bi-partisan law enforcement for the Washington County judge. Notably, Gehring listed himself as a Republican, but Clarke carefully referred to himself as “elected as a Democrat.” (Of course, everyone around here knows that Clarke is thread-close to being a card-carrying Republican.)

The ad spends most of its time emphasizing that Ziegler has put away “child molesters” and “sex offenders” -- people no one likes and who can’t vote anyway.

“Judge Ziegler has put child molesters behind bars for 35, 40, even 50 years. No one else running for the court can say that,” Clarke says in the ad for instance.

That may be true, but Ziegler’s most notorious case was also brought to light this week–an incredibly lenient 1999 sentence was noted by the Web site Progressive Majority. It was a one-year jail sentence for a Washington County man who repeatedly sexually assaulted his 10-year-old step daughter. He faced a 25-year sentence. It’s interesting the Milwaukee Journal seems to have a brain fart on the case since it not only covered the story then, but current columnist Mike Nichols wrote an extensive tome of outrage in the matter in 1999.

Ziegler faces Madison attorney Linda Clifford in the April 3 contest, but so far Clifford hasn’t been heard from too much lately, even though she has likely surpassed $300,000 in her bank account. Ziegler garnered more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary.

Ziegler has also come under fire within the last week for hearing cases concerning West Bend Savings Bank, where her husband sits on the board of directors. That’s a violation of judicial ethics. It was also reported this week (by out-of-town media) that Ziegler has heard 14 cases concerning United Health Care, in which she owns $50,000 in stock, another judicial no-no.

Out of the Shadow, Into the Scrum: Until this month Leon Todd seemed to prefer being the man behind the curtain in the recall effort of Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee Jr. While ViAnna Jordan has cultivated much of the media’s attention, Todd, the former Milwaukee School Board member, mayoral and lt. governor candidate, has been strongly into the effort, albeit under the radar. Until last week.

Todd’s attorney, the recently re-barred Alan Eisenberg, was able to convince a judge to grant a temporary restraining order against McGee and his dad, Michael Sr. The elder McGee hosts a radio show on WNOV and has taken a penchant for calling Todd out on the recall against his son. McGee the junior also said on the show at one point that Todd “should be hung.”

Eisenberg told a court commissioner that the elder McGee gave out Todd’s phone number on his show and it resulted in harassing phone calls.

We asked Todd, a strong proponent of opposition opinion, if he wasn’t trying to stifle what could be viewed McGee’s right to free speech.

“This is not free speech. This is hate speech,” he says, referring other questions to Eisenberg.

Todd’s beef with the McGees go back to when he was a school board member and his porch was firebombed after Todd’s opposition to afro-centric learning programs in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

But finding McGee Jr. and serving him the restraining order has proved a difficult task. Reports from the sheriff’s department are that his house is empty and up for sale and even though he has been on the air at the WNOV radio station personnel say he isn’t there. He was seen at his Common Council committee meeting on Thursday. 

With Todd finally coming out of the political closet to throw a jab at the McGees, the cast of characters in the recall drama has probably overshadowed the seven candidates vying to replace him in an April 3 primary election. We have:

  • Todd, an outspoken conspiracy theory driven figure, who, as mayoral candidate, brought a common-sense approach to solutions for Milwaukee, but the message fell on deaf ears. He ran last fall for lieutenant governor on the Green Party ticket and lost in the February primary for school board. He is also a prolific e-mailer.
  • Eisenberg, who just got his law license back in January after a three-year suspension for misrepresentation and abrasive behavior. It was Eisenberg’s third suspension in his career and the state Supreme Court narrowly approved him getting the license back, calling him “cantankerous and grouchy.” During his suspension Eisenberg began writing as associate editor for the South Side Spanish-language paper El Conquistador and his latest renderings spend space chiding McGee Jr. Most recent was a Feb. 22 missive imagining a McGee Jr. mayoral campaign. “All Latinos will be asked to move. The police chief will be ordered to no longer make arrests for possession of cocaine and other drugs of choice. ... Campaign funds will be raised from proceeds of muggings and drug transactions on the streets,” he writes. It was, of course, e-mailed to the worldwide Todd e-mail list.
  • The McGees. The father and son due that has made enough headlines to whet the appetite of a tired Milwaukee political scene, giving journalists something to do, at least.
  • Jerrell Jones, the Republican-leaning WNOV radio station owner, who continues to let the elder McGee ramp up his audience, absolving himself of any responsibility because he claims McGee pays for his airtime. Jones also own the Milwaukee Courier newspaper.
  • The McGee media cabal. Jones, Bob Thomas of the Community Journal and Louis Fortis of Shepherd Express regularly meet at Jones’ day-house in Milwaukee. All three papers are strongly behind McGee and the Shepherd Express last week ran an “exclusive” interview with McGee while the Journal Sentinel and other media in the city won’t get the time of day from Junior.

A hearing on a permanent restraining is scheduled for March 13.

Economic Development Woes: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was taken to task for some of his recent economic development initiatives, including the Pabst Brewery redevelopment and his plan for a research park on the grounds of the VA Medical Center.

Ald. Joe Davis, Sr. sent a highly critical letter to Barrett regarding a lack of job training funds for the Pabst project. He noted that in the first Pabst plan -- rejected by the council last year -- Barrett supported $2 million for low-income, minority job training. But Davis is upset that in the latest version of Pabst, that funding is only 25 percent of the original plan, despite the city spending essentially the same amount in aid for the project. He calls it “contradictive to your current public statements and coordinated initiative.”

Davis also takes issue with the fact there were no job training dollars for the Manpower office project when the mayor first proposed it, even though the city is putting $25.3 million into its Downtown relocation.  In light of that track record and other issues, Davis questions Barrett’s plan to create the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, since he says it duplicates current effort underway by the Department of City Development. He says calling for a new office while not using the tools at hand is “like blaming the teacher for not turning in your homework.”

Meanwhile, the mayor’s plan to spend $21 million to develop 28 acres of the VA complex was rejected by a Milwaukee-area veterans group. Barrett tried to entice vets by promising to restore several historic buildings on the site that desperately need preserving. The Allied Veterans Council of Milwaukee said they didn’t like the idea because it would interfere with expansion of Wood National Cemetery, which is also part of the VA center.

No More Bar Time Blues: Perhaps in honor of’s celebratory bar month in February, the state Legislature changed the law so that bars could stay open later this weekend. A change in daylight savings time, which begins Sunday, contradicted with current state law on bar closing times. It covered only the previous time enacted by Congress for April. So that gives us another 30 minutes of legal drinking on Saturday. And who says politicians don’t ever do anything right? Cheers.

Cart Curmudgeons: Some Milwaukee aldermen want to take on that menace known as the shopping cart. Alds. Robert Donovan, Robert Puente, Jim Bohl and Joe Dudzik want to hold grocery store owners accountable for their carts, requiring carts to be stantioned on the grocery lot. Fine and penalties hover over offenders. What does it mean for the city? An expected $17,500 a year in extra revenue from those fines.

Should We Call Them the Ballyard Brawlers? The Milwaukee Brewers may get their security for less this season, or use less security. Under a deal expected to be approved by Common Council, the Brewers will pay the city $1.2 million for the next two years of police presence for Miller Park. That’s down about $40,000 a year from the last two-year deal.

Officers will be able to volunteer for the assignments and the Brewers will pick up the cost of overtime dollar-for-dollar. OT rates range from $41.38 to $49.36, but if the price goes for some reason, the Brewers can cancel the deal. No word on who will pay for workman’s comp should an accident happen. The deal is still apparently cheaper than what the Brewers used to pay the county. Sheriffs patrolled the games from 1980 to 2004.

War Sit-ins to Continue: Congressman David Obey (D-Wis.) Got a taste of the American opposition to the war in Iraq. Four members of the protest group Occupation Project camped out in Obey’s Wausau office this week and refused to leave, prompting their arrest. They chose Obey’s office because he even though he says he opposes the war he continues to vote to fund it. Three were arrested after doing the same thing on March 7. Sen. Herb Kohl’s Madison office was the target of the same tactic every Monday since Feb. 7, but no one has been arrested.

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.