Incumbents Win Big in Summer Primary

Aug. 10, 2016
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Well, the results are in and it looks like the Milwaukee area will be sending a lot of familiar faces back to office. 

The biggest race, of course, was the re-election of Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm. Yes, he faced a very weak challenger and also had to explain some of his decisions in office—significantly, his decision not to charge a MPD officer for shooting and killing Dontre Hamilton in broad daylight in a public park. As Chisholm has stated repeatedly, he cannot take a case to court if he cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. And as police officers are given great leeway in using lethal force in the line of duty, he didn’t think he could win this case. Yes, the decision disappointed many but that’s our system of justice. We need to change the laws and policing strategy so that violent officers can face justice. But that’s part of a bigger conversation. Chisholm can't do it alone.

There are many reasons to be relieved by Chisholm’s re-election. Mainly, he’s in the midst of transforming an enormous institution so that it’s more responsive to the community and proactive as well. Would his opponent have continued that effort? Likely not. She seemed to be in over her head.

Then there’s the political mess. Yes, Chisholm’s opponent was boosted by dark money forces—most likely the folks under investigation in the John Doe and their allies—who wanted him to lose this election and halt the appeal of the John Doe decision in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. How un-American is that? To think that if you have enough money, and are protected by anonymity, you can shut down an investigation into your own crimes by meddling in an election? This is a new low, but as we’ve seen, the anti-John Doe folks have tried everything they can to shut down this investigation and escape justice. It can’t happen. Now, with Chisholm safely re-elected, the effort to clean up our campaigns and our judicial system can continue. 

Chisholm’s win also fit a pretty clear pattern. Every incumbent in the Milwaukee area, no matter how weak, won re-election and the most familiar faces won in open seats. In a low-turnout election, looks like those with a built-in power base beat outsider candidates. It’s also a good test of this new August primary: When few people show up to vote during summer vacation, name recognition matters. The influence of a flood of dark money sponsoring attack ads may have had an impact, but some candidates—Chisholm, notably—prevailed anyway.

Other results in the Democratic primary: 

  • Russ Feingold beat a fake Democrat and will face Republican Ron Johnson in November. 
  • Congresswoman Gwen Moore handily defeated Gary George and will face Libertarian Andy Craig in November. 
  • Sen. Lena Taylor fended off a challenge from Rep. Mandela Barnes and will return to office as District 4’s senator. 
  • Rep. LaTonya Johnson will move up to the Senate to represent District 6. 
  • Assembly District 8 Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa will return to office. 
  • Assembly District 9 Rep. Josh Zepnick won despite facing a strong challenger in attorney Marisabel Cabrera. 
  • Former Rep. Jason Fields will go back to the state Assembly after prevailing over organizer Darrol Gibson in District 11. 
  • Rep. Leon Young faced three Democratic challengers and will return to Assembly District 16 in November. 
  • David Crowley will represent Assembly District 17, opened up by Rep. LaTonya Johnson’s move to the Senate, in the next legislative session. 
  • After 18 years in office, Assembly District 20 Rep. Christine Sinicki will return for another term in January after prevailing over MPS teacher Julie Meyer. 
  • Newcomer Jack Redmond beat fellow Democrat Frank Gratke in Assembly District 21 and will face Republican Rep. Jessie Rodriguez in November.






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