Wednesday, July 30, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

Playful on Facebook, Janet Prostasiewicz
shared her shopping trip for judicial robes.
It will be a quiet swearing in August 1 when Janet Prostasiewicz starts work, mostly behind the scenes for the first months, as newest judge for Milwaukee County Circuit Court, elected last April to Branch 24.

The grander induction and festivities will wait until October for a larger venue than a courthouse chamber. There are too many across the ideological spectrum who wants to celebrate the elevation of a veteran prosecutor, anticipating that her credentials, integrity and reputation for balance signal the arrival of an important addition to the judicial profession.

Such universal accord is quite a surprise. It should remind citizens how, in an age of sound-bite fury, financial passion caused by politics can evaporate quickly as events change on the ground.  In 2013 the Wisconsin Club for Growth pushed $167,000 against Prostasiewicz in another judicial race.  This year they were encouraged by the governor to go quiet.

Why? It’s time to look again at a Golden Oldie, a column last January largely ignored by Wisconsin media. But in discussing why that April judicial race wound up unsullied by politics, the column revealed a lot about all those hidden confabs and secret decisions about money maneuvering that are growing in consequence every day as elections crowd in. The public needs to become more aware of how these games deserve scrutiny since they are influencing and even crippling their choices. 

Whatever you think of Gov. Scott Walker, he is a shrewdie at husbanding his own connections and protecting his money sources even as his overall policies are fading.  Coverage of his failures as an administrator are now rampant -- huge holes between what he says and what his actions have  actually done to Wisconsin.  But he has deftly been able to combine glib rhetoric, partial facts and a reputation as a right-wing darling to deflect detailed scrutiny.

Now things have changed.  He is neck and neck with the largely unknown Mary Burke, whose ideas and pragmatic style are gaining favor even in polls the Republicans respectThat is forcing him to change his extremist stripes for more populist fantasies.

Give him some credit for seeing early the need for political self-protection in the use of campaign expenditures. It’s more obvious to the public today. Where once he never hesitated to speak against gay marriage as a personal dislike, now he dodges, recognizing frank speaking could be a political deficit.  He now supports the Democratic position against companies getting tax credits for sending Wisconsin jobs overseas, though his own commerce concoction (he’s chair of the WEDC) has long been doing just that

But even a year ago he realized the growing clouds on the horizon. It was the political self-preservation creature within Walker that gave Prostasiewicz a clear path to her election – and pushed for conservative money groups like Club for Growth to focus instead on his own election.  His decision “has more to do with fear of stirring the electorate pot negatively before his own November election – because honestly, when has the governor avoided stepping into Milwaukee politics?”  I wrote eight months ago.   Ironically, in the wake of John Doe and other embarrassments, it is clear that the Club for Growth doesn’t have Walker’s re-election on their brain as much as he does. They are more concerned with retaining their Tea Party credentials.

There is a widespread belief -- in both parties – that which side has the most money determines the outcome. Big elections and small. Money is the power even more than policies. And since the GOP has more money, some people just throw up their hands and give up.  Compromise is good, but crawling is often the secret meaning of candidates who cry for accommodation.

On one level that is mystification to thinking voters. Can the amount of money and fabrications put behind a candidate or a position be more important to Americans than what the candidate is or the public actually believes in? Whether on the left or the right?  On another level, it certainly squares with the importance of salesmanship and advertising in a free market society. 

 stepped into it July 28 seeking a photo op
 to appear friendly to education. He chose
 an ITT Tech campus. The for-profit is under national
 investigations for tuition gouging and
 “deceptive and abusive” practices against students.
The “who has more money fever” is creating some strange doppelgangers. The Club for Growth, for instance, is now in the same boat as unions, who supported Democratic candidates even when not that happy about it because they had no place else to go.  Now the Club for Growth has no place else but Walker and his minions to go and they don’t seem very happy about it.

The excess of unrestrained money is far more visible in national politics, where we are talking about millions of dollars not a few thousands.  But a few thousand is all it takes in a district race to shift the balance.  This year that power of money has been peeking its head out of some strange holes in a series of local contests.

There are races like the spring judicial ones that are supposed to be nonpartisan, but the money tells us that is laughable naiveté on the voter’s part.  It was hardly principles that caused WMC to fight so hard for a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court (and how interesting this July that a federal appeals panel nine years later has cited those WMC related efforts as unconstitutional.)

So it was rare that a Prostasiewicz escaped into a politically free zone for what could have been a competitive court race. But at least we’ve explained why – and were correct last January in anticipating that “The race that never was winds up telling us a lot about the governor’s race that will be.” 

Some contests are distinctively partisan (the D vs. R thing) but on August 12 most of the vital ones are Ds against other Ds and Rs against other Rs.  These contests were supposed to be about ideas and values, not who has the most money for slick mailers, two-faced social media campaigns, outside hidden money forces, blunt or subtle personal attacks and radio and TV solicitations at the last minute – in other words, the sort of behavior that relies on money.  It's a campaign style that can force sensible voters to pause in doubt and casual voters to think that a barrage of this size must contain some truth.

Citizens are not aware how political insiders can take advantage of campaign financing rules to stack the deck. The consultants can bring in money from outside the state to pretend there is keen local interest in a candidate. The public won’t know the full weight of outside campaign financing until after the election.

We already know a little bit. There is a requirement in campaign reporting for state offices that expenditures in the June cycle must be reported by July 21.   Those figures can be confounding. You have to wonder as you peruse them:  Why is a Coca Cola attorney in Atlanta or why is a PR lobbyist in D.C. suddenly so interested in who will represent Shorewood or Milwaukee’s East Side in a Madison lower chamber? Who knows who to cause this? Just what do they expect from such generosity?

The state’s Government Accountability Board, run responsibly by retired judges picked for ideological balance and staffed by closed-mouth experts, must follow rules imposed by a GOP dominated legislature (which is still attacking the GAB and threatening to withhold funds should they make any sensible decision regarded as injurious to pet causes).

Of course, much bigger money is spent in July and early August for an Aug. 12 primary, and those figures will not be seen by the public until after the election in news reports.  This is a bizarre situation that politicians take full advantage of despite journalistic fuming. It’s that “inside politics” thing -- so dull, so hard to follow, so important.

The current GAB-2 reports do provide clues.  It is common to pursue campaign finance (with specific dollar limits) from a candidate’s fans and territory and from groups such as unions and PACs made up of members with similar interests. These campaign donations are transparent on the surface but  can still be hard to decipher, since a reader can’t tell what family support or professional colleagues are contributing from a distance. Or who runs the firms receiving campaign largesse. 

But when candidates primarily rely on top donations from California, New York, Michigan and Virginia, and not Wisconsin and not even voters in their district, a light goes on in the heads of veteran journalists.  They start cross-referencing those names with known conduits, such as the voucher school conduit, the Americans for Prosperity machine (individual members may be secret but many have active tongues), the professional lobbyist groups looking for an edge in future legislation, or the strangely named groups that sound like average citizens arising in anger but are actually made up of a few very rich.

Interesting patterns can emerge.  The candidates openly backed by wealthy Chris Abele, the Milwaukee county executive whose family earned $1.5 billion and established Argosy foundation with the proceeds of medical device developer and investor Boston Scientific (whom many professionals had good connections with), can comand a widespread national network to raise funds far broader than actual voter interest if you examine the GAB-2 filings of Dan Adams in District 19 and Tia Torhorst in District 10. 

Such financing from outside of the state is usually more common for GOP candidates. That’s certainly true for some 75% of Walker’s support, perhaps a reward for his nonstop national speaking tour as a potential presidential candidate.  But while 
he continues to tout his local support among “the little people,” news media is closing in on the truth.

Reporters are taking apart his campaign funding, revealing how few of Wisconsin’s citizens are involved and how the size of the donations disguise the actual sources.  While both Walker and Burke may lean on loans and well-heeled backers, the journalistic analysis concludes: 

“One area in which Burke clearly triumphed over Walker was in the share of her money coming from inside Wisconsin. While the majority of Walker’s funds came from donors in other states, more than 70 percent of Burke’s campaign dollars were given by Wisconsinites.”

Another prime example is the Milwaukee County race for sheriff. No intelligent citizen looking at how David Clarke mishandles budget and services could be blind to his foolish ways. 

Certainly they couldn’t be taken in by his deliberately outrageous macho law and order statements or his strutting before local media and national conservative audiences. Or could they?

Christopher Moews
This time it is clear that Clarke is behind with the Democratic voters in Milwaukee County – so behind that he ran out of money with his final three-fold full-color home mailer wearing both his blues and his whites – but clean-shaven rather than the grizzled look he has comported of late. He promotes law enforcement cooperative efforts without revealing how his peers have removed him from being in charge.  Not exactly truth in advertising.
But that was his last local-funded gasp financially, campaign insiders say, and the main reason he called in the national NRA to launch an email fund-raising pitch with its members, pretending this was an attack on their gun rights and disguising this was a Democratic primary Aug. 12.

Sympathetic talk radio on the right chimed in with open suggestions of a GOP crossover, knowing how few urban Democrats support the NRA’s political positions even when they believe in the Second Amendment.  Usually such tactics are so obviously crass that they fail.  Republicans actually don’t like the deception. But Clarke’s campaign doesn’t think he can survive without crossovers given the high reputation for competent law enforcement of opponent Christopher Moews.

No wonder money emerges more important in a nonpresidential year election where the voting public hates to interrupt its  summer fun to vote. If the hired guns can count on that low turnout, if they can combine the indifference with right-wing media chatter and the power of money, maybe you can bring out a few extremists.  Maybe a few hundred slavish NRA voters can turn the tide if turnout stays low. Historically this reliance on crossover is ridiculous – even if you throw money at the plan and are convinced the voters are sheep. It is more likely to arouse the real voters. But money allows you to try.

These are the sort of petty financial schemings that voters scoot around rather than try to understand -- and that journalists may well be too fascinated by.  But it’s sure better being aware of them now. Rather than waking up Aug. 13 (or November 5 for that matter) asking yourself: “What the hell just happened?”

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its famous entertainment Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news.

From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with its still operative archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

Configured to hug the lake shore, District 19 is an influential combination of Bay View and Milwaukee’s East Side. There are people in Madison and other regions that may disagree with the common assessment by politicos that this is the most politically attuned and electorally engaged collection of residents in the state.  But it sure comes close – and  highly educated to boot with university types, business figures  and corporate connected lawyers among middle class families, students and retirees dotting its houses, apartments and condos north and south.

I have lived and worked within its current borders since I had to sneak past Mayor Henry Maier’s police forces to cover the 1967 “urban riot” for The Milwaukee Journal.  So it’s no surprise that I know most of the candidates, their backers and several generations of their relatives and supporters and have watched a lot of changing moods and evolving family and social links, which play a big part in this assembly election August 12, an important primary too many are overlooking.

The best known candidate in a strong Aug. 12 field
 for  Assembly District 19,  Marina Dimitrijevic  is surviving
 considerable media sniveling
and strong door to door tests of her resolve and professionalism.
Since the candidates know I write on local politics and culture, they have been asking for months when and what I was going to say, in between their multiple visits to my door as lawn signs sprouted around my neighborhood, mainly for the two most likely candidates out of four running. Those are dynamic Milwaukee county board chair Marina Dimitrijevic and popular Democratic activist  Jonathan Brostoff, on leave from directing State Sen. Chris Larson’s office. (Senate minority leader Larson, friendly to both, is staying publicly out of this one.)

There are two other candidates -- one of whom, Dan Adams, is clearly on a snipe attack against the two leaders. But from the start this was going to be a tough choice for me as a voter.

Let’s talk first about a candidate I hope will continue in politics though this is not her race. That’s Sara Geenen, a young mother, union lawyer and outspoken believer (as are Dimitrijevic and Brostoff) in collective bargaining, transparently funded public education, living wage and better transit. In an election sea of handsome multiple flyers (important in such local elections), though financially outgunned, her opening mailer was the most attractive.  

Her father is a big deal in the US Steelworkers. Her work at Previant law firm and her positions have generated such active Steelworkers support that the Milwaukee Area Labor Council could not reach a recommendation in the 19th to forward to the State AFL-CIO.  (On their own many unions have endorsed Dimitrijevic while other educators and groups support Brostoff – both are piling up notable approvals, though Dimitrijevic certainly leads the parade.)

Geenen is so interesting a candidate that many wish she lived in another district so they could keep her around or they wish she would go through extensive candidate polishing.  In forums against more experienced and articulate opponents, she proved not quite ready for this sort of prime time trial of fire.

Jonathan Brostoff for a long time was running
 neck and neck with Dimitrijevic in district
 respect of his progressive ability.
I remained torn for a long time between Dimitrijevic and Brostoff, as I suspect are many others in District 19. Avid supporters for these candidates argue – I think they are being partisanly outrageous -- that if the votes split between the two that would open the door for Adams.  I suspect there are more than enough self-identified progressives in this community to allow votes for both with one still succeeding. Adams also was shooting himself in the foot abandoning his original neighborly family appeal and using the money and campaign advice of County Executive Chris Abele to go hard and long against his established and accomplished opponents, which was robbing him of authenticity and opening the door to dismissal as an Abele heeled clone.  This is not a naïve district and these residents sniff out orchestration.

Ten years ago, I interviewed Marina (it’s easier for just about everyone to use her first name without assuming familiarity) when -- she now embarrassingly remembers – her hair was highlighted red and close-cropped. She was trying and succeeding in becoming the youngest woman elected to the county board, intensely expressing her views but heavily in the minority on the board with such new concerns as the environment, living wage and dedicated funding for public transit.  Her liberal status was further clouded as new county executive Scott Walker shed his “white knight to the rescue” image to reveal his extremist and rather ruthless right-wing motors.

It’s a testament to her political instincts that she kept her cool, raised intelligent ideas and persevered to become chair and respectful but unifying force on the county board, which has adopted her Green Print construction standards among other initiatives. Even under Walker and Abele she argued differing viewpoints that led to some effective compromises on policy and budgetary issues. A big part of this was standing by her beliefs but refusing to get down in the gutter as Abele openly opposed any resistance to his bidding and strived with GOP legislative support to limit her authority. 

I once described in print her approach as board chair toward Abele as offering an olive branch that came back as a stick in the eye. But she didn’t back away from her values and that alone has won appreciation even from some opponents, though the local press has been slow to understand her measured pragmatic approach. They much prefer to cover a public feud and couldn’t understand why they couldn’t stir a big one up from a politically ambitious woman.

Without serving in elected office, Brostoff has also accomplished political and community acumen and friends. My interest in him from the start was far more than about his going to school with my kids and the family being constantly recruited by his unofficial campaign manager, his mom.  I knew that in her role on the board, Marina had made enemies (how can you not?) and made deals that could be interpreted as retreat though she would argue there were good reasons. But perhaps there were genuine weaknesses I failed to see in her behavior that the campaign would reveal.  How people behave when running for office is often more revealing than resumes, so I wanted to watch, listen and wait (which proved rewarding to see how politically sensitive people confront realities over income -- as Marina did belatedly when she announced she could not hold two elected positions simultaneously and as Brostoff did early in officially taking a leave from Larson’s employment). 

Brostoff is an unusual candidate. Soft-spoken, persistent, usually thoughtful and devoted to public service, he has attracted a young cadre of voters though he is not much younger than Marina (she’s 31).  He worked tirelessly in 2012 to help elect to the legislature what were then the neglected underdogs – Nikiya Harris for senate and Mandela Barnes, Sandy Pasch and Daniel Riemer for the Assembly (Evan Goyke has stayed neutral) -- so it is hardly a surprise that  they publicly say they want him as their new colleague.  There is an amiability of style and mutual belief in approach and goals among them. 

Sara Geenen proved the novice
 candidate Milwaukee hopes
 to see more of in the future.
So while Marina is clearly in the lead with more money and official support, she is also seen as a strong personality who would require some adjustments in that legislative clubhouse. Brostoff has conducted some innovative fund-raisers and events, trying to challenge her dominant strength in Bay View (her home turf) with inroads on the East Side.

Abele lives in the district (Lake Drive mansion) and is supporting Adams with money and political connections, particularly among lawyers and business types connected with his campaign co-chair Sheldon Lubar, MMAC and the more influential operatives who can arrange lucrative get-togethers for Adams.  His political advisers are also experienced to the point of farcical underestimating these voters.  That produced chuckles when Adams started his slick campaign with a video attack on potholes, raising that obvious silly question:  Just which of his opponents supports potholes? Obviously none. What could he do in the Assembly pothole that they could not? Obviously nothing. 

Adams, a former assistant DA currently in private practice, told me early on that he hoped whatever I write would emphasize the broad nature of the Democratic Party since his chief arguments were that he will do better in Madison than the others because he knows how to “work with” the other side.  He also said he supported “quality schools” whatever their source of origination. 

Dan Adams is riding Chris Abele's money
 and methods in a district that doesn't
-- outside of Lake Drive --  seem to be buying the tactics.
This is not the district to trot out that argument as he soon learned from open snarls at candidate events even when he brought along his own squad of supporters. There is a line between cooperation and appeasement and that was the mood at one recent candidate forum inside a church. It was run fairly by Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy who in print judged Marina the winner and in the same column questioned her ambition and then had to backtrack.

Murphy asked all candidates to speak on the same issues and confessed afterward to being as amazed as I was how a near rumble erupted when Adams expressed his views on public education – that he “would move heaven and earth” to support   “quality schools” whatever the funding sources – private with taxpayer money (vouchers) or public run by private for-profit and non-profit entities.

It was not union teachers that pounced on this.   It was parents aware of new studies about how “quality” and “accountability” have become simplistic dirty words in education. They can be used to mask funding sources by profit seekers (who may soon skip to another source of revenue) or become a tax base camouflage for Walker’s rationale for taking money away from teachers.  Commented one angry grandmother afterward, who added she had not made up her mind on a candidate before the forum, “He sounds like he expects Walker to win and that we’d all better suck it up.”

At several events where he also openly criticized other candidates, hearing Adams’ spiel that the problem was Democrats who didn’t know how to negotiate effectively led to further rumbles in the crowd. So did his belief that he represented a more mature approach to the problems Milwaukee faces from a Madison legislature that clearly disrespects Milwaukee’s importance in the state. That dismay was brought out in the open in talks after the events -- the concerns about when cooperation becomes appeasement.  

Another once uncommitted citizen, who quickly committed away from Adams, told friends Adams was “using the Putin analogy” – that is, be nice to the dictators and maybe you can change them.

I doubt whether that was what Adams intended or that he wanted to sound like an Abele stooge, but other candidates noted that it directly contradicts what they all are hearing at the doors.  “This district wants legislators who are fighters,” said Brostoff.  “Be personable yes, but speak up for what you won’t give up,” Geenen told me at a Brady St. meeting near where she lives. “People expect us to stand up and dig in on our core beliefs,” said Dimitrijevic.

Abele, claiming it is nothing personal against
 the county board chair, is making no secret in ads
 and mailers how strongly he prefers Adams.
In a conversation, Abele assured me he was supporting Adams because he liked the cut of his jib and not because of any animosity toward Dimitrijevic or the county board. Any belief in his argument evaporated when he supported his campaign director, Tia Torhorst, to run in next door District 10 against another supervisor who thwarted him by winning approval of a livable wage for county contractors, David Bowen. 

After saying he was above politics even in his op-ed pieces, Abele was indeed playing politics -- even with his behavior with the new mental health board -- to deepen his control by removing elements of local representation that usually it is Republicans eager to see eliminated. (Supporters of county supervisors have proven the bulwark of Democratic Party grassroots voting power.)

Abele lives in the one district where his efforts to succeed by accommodating the GOP majority is deeply disliked and that is now working against Adams. From what I heard firsthand at these forums and public meetings, District 19 voters are in the mood to battle for principles and they knew even before the media reported it that Abele was using Republican support to cripple his political enemies in his own party.

Fair or not, many residents link Adams to that quisling image. (The dictionary defines quisling as “person who helps an enemy that has taken control of his or her country” – in this case state.)

While Adams quickly soured many in the district, I still felt it important to wait and measure behavior for this secure Democratic seat (occasioned by the decision of shoo-in Jon Richards to run for state attorney general, facing two opponents in the same Aug. 12 primary).  Temperament and how you choose to attack would say a lot. Politics, in that old saw, “ain’t bean bags” and the daily pressure of the spotlight could generate unseemly games.

It did, and that’s mainly why I am giving the edge to Dimitrijevic.

Sure, in private she may have said some things that sound petty. (Her backers were outraged that Sandy Pasch, an assistant party leader in the assembly, came out early and strongly for Brostoff though Pasch is a free agent – she is retiring from the Assembly and he was a strong worker for her election.) But Dimitrijevic told me in an interview July 22, “Actually, even if some supporters did, I have not said anything negative about Sandy whom I respect, though I was surprised and disappointed by her choice.” So the public Dimitrijevic knows how to stay cool. She has been attacked by Adams, blogs and the printed media but proved too experienced to display public exasperation and react to the shells from the peanut gallery. Cleverly her style in not running against anyone but FOR her values.

But Brostoff did take the bait --  or at least take to press  releases in an eagerness to make inroads.  Dan Bice, usually an interesting muckraker for JS, wrote his  most ridiculous column attacking how hard Dimitrijevic works by measuring key card parking entries at the courthouse to say she was treating her job cavalierly, ignoring how frequently Dimitrijevic commutes with husband, or takes the bus, or works at home between running meetings and is campaigning double-duty for another office. He was also tipped off to the idea by a frequent Dimitrijevic critic.

Democrats including some dedicated Brostoff supporters rallied to her defense since they know she is a tireless worker with intense work ethic even when they disagree with her.  They sheepishly blamed bad campaign advice from the Brostoff team for timing his press release to that Bice column – subtly contrasting his sense of commitment to hers.

But this was not the only time. In trying to cut into her progressive image, Brostoff has joined the chorus suggesting her vote to keep parks patrols under Sheriff David Clarke’s duties reflected an animus toward Abele and a preference to protect Clarke the dunce. That was quite  a stretch even in campaign heat. The record is clear that she and other supervisors who rejected the idea of turning over parks patrols from sheriff’s deputies to the city were defending the turf out of belief that a better sheriff was on the horizon.

Christopher Moews
And one is – Christopher Moews who stands a good chance of ousting Clarke Aug. 12 and restoring credibility and parks responsibility to the department. Ironically, Moews is supported by Dimitrijevic, Abele and pretty much every respected figure in Wisconsin – and he wants to patrol the parks.

Misfiring with  innuendo during a campaign has an aftermath, particularly in attuned District 19. So while I still think Brostoff would be a good fit for the district, he made sure that Dimitrijevic is going to get my vote based on her temperament in times of difficulty,  her experience and progressive capability.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its famous entertainment Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news.
From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with its still operative archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for

Thursday, July 17, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

TV pundits joke that where “God, gays and guns” once defined Republican concerns, mortal terror of the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association has replaced that with “guns, guns and more guns.”  There’s truth in that even as the majority of the country, including responsible gun owners in the NRA and most Republicans, wants some sensible controls, such as the universal background checks promoted by all the Democrats running statewide August 12 for attorney general.

Now the NRA has stuck its nose into the Milwaukee August 12 election, expecting opposition will melt away in terror of its gun power. That expectation is backfiring as residents learning of the intrusion react angrily to ignorance and flat deception in a local urban race.

Christopher Moews is likely to benefit from
the NRA's fund-raising intrusion from afar
for David Clarke. Moews is shown speaking
to a community forum.
The NRA, insiders in the organization insist, didn’t initiate this fund-raising pressure on its national email network of members (reputedly much larger than its actual membership).  In the past as detailed by reporter Christina Wilkie this network of hundreds of thousands has been a key part of the millions of dollars in lobbying money raised, aimed primarily at members of Congress and built around hatred of Obama.   While the NRA would not confirm the range of the email blast or reveal how few live in Milwaukee, insiders think it went out to the full national network of recorded names. 

This was a “you owe me, NRA!” poker chip cashed by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. He approached the NRA because he had strutted the stage as their budding Cliven Bundy last April at the NRAILA “leadership forum,” scoring video rhetorical whoopee by attacking former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (a frequent NRA target) and renaming Mayors Against Illegal Guns (with its bipartisan lineup of more than 900 national leaders) as “Mayors Against the Second Amendment.”  Raw meat is this forum’s  forte. And Clarke’s presence allowed the NRA to play what has  become known as the Clarence Thomas card of conservative politics. (“Hey, not all African Americans are crazy liberals – some are crazy on our side, too!”) 

Clarke has simply not generated as much local  campaign money or helpful headlines as his outrageous posturing once did, and he senses he’s behind. He needs cash from outside Wisconsin, maybe to concoct some last-minute flurry and radio and TV ads. He could also be laying some groundwork for a loss. How can the NRA now not support him in any future career move?

Most Milwaukeeans on the Democratic side are not NRA members or sympathizers – and even  those who are will likely be offended by this abnormal fund-raising plea from executive director Chris Cox. Personalized by first name, it contains a near apology for breaking in on people’s computer time for something other than a legislative issue or an attack on liberal members of the US Congress.  It falsely suggests  that this is a “special election” called specifically because Clarke has spoken up for the  NRA cause  and is under attack from  “anti-gunners working overtime” on behalf of Obama.

The NRA email list is not being told the truth --  that Aug. 12 is a normal Democratic primary. Let me say that slowly: D-e-m-o-c-r-a-t-i-c.  When was the last time the NRA network was pursuing money for a Democrat?

Of course, Clarke is a no-Democrat Democrat. In his typical political opportunism, he has run as one since 2002 aware that no open Republican in modern times has carried this election.

There's little polling in the sheriff's race, but by most anecdotes
and Clarke's desperate call to the NRA, strong turnout
Aug. 12 could put Christopher Moews in the office,
restoring respectability to the county.
The biggest fact the NRA hid is the nature of Clarke’s opponent who also carries a gun -- but with the safety on -- and more capably leads squads of officers.  Unlike the current sheriff he intends to replace, Christopher Moews does not rely on a self-promoted image of street bravery but actually has that background. Many police officers can point to youthful bravery as Clarke does, but what is needed is demonstrable increasing maturity and acumen. That is what Moews (pronounced Mays) has in abundance, from patrols to community policing, to working with children to the homicide squad, in district leadership and growing authority as an administrator of modern police methods. He has risen in leadership positions over 20 years with the Milwaukee Police Department, demonstrating intelligence along with experience.

He wants to restore the sheriff’s department to a valued place in local law enforcement – the cooperative approach that Clarke stole from the department. And while he supports Democratic Party values, he also says this office should not be a partisan contest.

If you ask other local law enforcement officials, they say Clarke has destroyed morale and abandoned the county’s close roles and respect in metropolitan policing policies. But they credit him with mastery of self-promotion, relying for years on a complacent media accepting his grandiose pretenses of action.

In the past few years, the usual protective club of law enforcement officials openly had it with Clarke. Quietly his colleagues in multi-jurisdictional task forces (such as OWI efforts against drunk driving) quietly removed him from authority.

Even Milwaukee police chief Ed Flynn responded last year to Clarke’s attack on his successful methods and his radio ad calling on the public to arm themselves with guns as a better option than calling 911.

“The data continue to show that no one has more to say about law enforcement in Milwaukee County and less to actually do with it than Sheriff Clarke," noted Flynn. Meanwhile the head of the deputy sheriffs association described Clarke’s rush for headlines as inciting vigilantism.

He has also been forced by administrative hearings to curb his ramrod bossism.   He has trumpeted and then abandoned costly public relations programs in drug interdiction and taking guns at random from passing cars (NRA, you didn’t know?). He defiantly padded his department budget when Scott Walker was around as county executive to protect a right-wing ally’s indiscriminate spending and power grabs. 

Given that history, this NRA fund-raising blitz, which was supposed to have liberals shaking in their boots, doesn’t seem to be making a dent among the knowledgeable.   It landed in many mailboxes the same day the community learned that Sierra Guyton, the 10 year old caught in gun battle crossfire at a playground, had died.  That carried far more meaning about the excess of guns in our community.

The NRA attempt came with Sandy Hook and dozens of other mass shootings fresh in the news, reminding voters how common sense advances to protect children were sidetracked by the NRA’s call to arm teachers or, even more absurd as current events prove, that only a good guy with a gun could stop a bad guy with a gun. 

It came at a time when Milwaukee children were shooting themselves playing with pistols adults left loosely around the house, when news reports nationally focused on the growing epidemic of accidental shootings.  It came in a nation finally concentrating on debating the best steps to protect neighbors and children from the outrageous number of guns and discuss the mental state of users rather than believing that anyone who parrots the NRA line is automatically believable.

I first met Clarke in 2002 as editor for the Milwaukee Labor Press, wondering who was that guy in crisp uniform poking his head over an unknowing US Rep. John Lewis, along with Tom Barrett, Marvin Pratt and other dignitaries in every photo op, seeking to steal some thunder  during a civil rights march. The hosts of the event along Martin Luther King Drive couldn’t identify him.

He seemed a relatively toothless publicity hound (appointed to fill a vacancy by an interim Republican governor), pushing his presence into the TV cameras and dodging questions about his political views, drifting into lightly controversial ideas about school uniforms. Things became uglier at the county when he promoted  sycophants over proven seniority and dismissed past practices while insisting on authority over the beaches,  the airport, the freeways and visiting dignitaries attracting national media – always complaining he didn’t have the manpower or a big enough budget.

Such behavior was tolerated for a while (I can even name some respected political experts who helped him start out). Even openly skeptical Democrats thought  he might mature from a fiend for publicity into a more malleable law and order guy --  until he started tearing the canvas of the big tent party to shreds with ever more outlandish ideas and strutting.

He catered to the promotional interest on his far right.  He saw his most extreme statements get noticed by talk radio, FOX News and organizations like the NRA.  Other media saw a chance to sell newspapers by paying more attention than logic warranted  to the droppings from his loose lips. His rhetorical toughness grew in inverse proportion to his abilities. Statements and platforms turned more extreme.  He  launched into personal attacks on any politicians – or deputies or chiefs or administrative monitors or even top judges – who questioned his methods.  

Finally the courts and officials had to step in, shoot him down on personnel issues, limit his courthouse antics and wrest his control of  the house of corrections.  

Penis envy? Clarke's attack on Chris Abele (right) was typically
concocted  to generate media coverage and succeeded with this
double image leading off the JS story.
Once the media  could sell papers on his rants (such as accusing opponents of penis envy in cutting his private preserve finances).
 Once Clarke on the air meant listeners.  Today it’s more ho-hum, which simply encourages greater invective on his part.  So few outside the NRA leadership take him seriously -- “all hat and no cattle” as described in my 2010 column.

Pretending this race is all about gun rights, the NRA has actually stepped into a hornets’ nest in both political parties.  The email support for Clarke may even be working against his one-time close Republican ally, Scott Walker, who worked hard to make sure he had no Republican challenger in the August primary and only has to face likely Democratic candidate Mary Burke in November.

But part of that strategy was making Walker seem popular in August. So his campaign team is making robo-calls to encourage August 12 votes on their side of the ballot to manufacture a good showing for Walker. 

Those receiving the NRA pitch are mainly Republicans, the people Clarke may need to survive while the Walker camp is fighting against such crossover votes.  The governor’s people could be learning again what it’s like to be run over when national conservative organizations put his re-election second to their own schemes.  That seems to have just happened in the John Doe case where the right deliberately exposed Walker to ridicule. Clarke’s self-promotion may be doing it again.

Today Clarke serves mainly as a negative example. Politicians who don’t always agree with each other on specific issues seem to be arguing about who detests him the most.

County Executive Chris Abele – who broke his own civility rules by talking email trash about Clarke and inadvertently revealing his own thin skin by responding in kind -- criticized the county board for not cutting the sheriff’s budget and responsibilities as deeply as Abele wished, particularly his idea of turning county parks patrols over to the city police because Clarke was not doing that job. The board’s budget choices actually supported other deep cuts to Clarke’s kingdom  but wanted parks patrol to remain under the county’s jurisdiction.

Yet Abele has been joined in his criticism of the board by candidates Abele supports for legislative office, and even candidates with more believable progressive credentials opposing those Abele candidates (note how many of the folks are running against supervisors seeking the same legislative offices).  There are times where the county board deserve barbs  for being retaliatory  but it was surprising how many journalists joined this particular criticism, deciding the board was acting out of dislike for Abele and a curious buddying up to Clarke.  Curious since their outspoken unhappiness with Clarke predates Abele.

I interpret it more as looking ahead for Moews to win – the optimism that someday the public by vote will return respectability to the sheriff’s office. The board saw no  reason to attack the legitimate scope of the office in dislike for the man running it into the ground -- not if he is likely to go away. Slapping Clarke down but preserving the parks patrol and those attached deputy jobs may prove the best step forward in municipal cooperation and new recognition for a better sheriff and his deputies.  I think the board was taking a longer view than the county executive.

Supervisor Gerry Broderick (who points out he is running for nothing and can speak plainly) puts it simply.  “We were looking forward to the day when a real lawman like Moews takes over and returns the sheriff’s office to full sobriety” – which includes patrol of the county parks.

That day should be August 12.  Electing Moews is now  the most important reason for Milwaukee to vote. NRA meddling without facts should spur that turnout.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its famous entertainment Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news.

From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with its still operative archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for

Thursday, July 10, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

After the Republicans took the legislature and governor’s office in the election of 2010 and in the wake of the US Census, they went on an orgy of gerrymandering that continues to have profound consequences for the Wisconsin electorate.

None  more so than Milwaukee Assembly District 10, long associated with Annette (Polly) Williams, the prideful representative for the central city area whose concerns for poor black children led her to be deemed “the mother of school choice” – until conservatives took over the movement, raised the income levels and lowered the fairness  she sought through means now proved misguided. 

The gerrymandering removed the historic makeup of the district, taking effect in the 2012 election after Williams had retired, which did not prevent her from joining the call of her successor, Elizabeth Coggs (defeated in her run for state senate by Nikiya Harris), echoed by state Sen. Lena Taylor,  for constituents to choose someone who “looked like them” – that is, African American. It was interpreted as a blatant racist appeal that brought other more famous black leaders (MICAH pastor Willie Brisco, labor leader Sheila Cochran, retired Rep. Tamara Grigsby and US Rep. Gwen Moore) out in anger over preferring the color of skin to the content of character.  “We should focus on who has the heartful understanding  and negotiating insight  in addressing our problems,” Brisco told me in an interview when in 2012 he supported the lone white candidate in the all-female field, tested representative and firm negotiator Sandy Pasch who through gerrymandering was losing her own district.

Young and proven effective he may be, but by August 12
 voters will have to decide if David Bowen's persuasive energy
 and liberal credentials are too strong or just right for District 10.
Vestiges of 2012 underlie a curious Aug. 12  battle in the redone District 10 (with a vital North Shore suburban voting bloc  added). It has become  a fight for the district’s progressive soul – a time to look beyond race and gender for the proven figure beholden to principle over patronage.

This is a contest among  a successful young progressive legislator, county supervisor  David Bowen (who is African American); a  longtime backstage Democratic operative and consigliera for County Executive Chris Abele,  Tia Torhorst (white and a Shorewood resident), and Democratic activist Bria Grant (also African American) who claims planning for Milwaukee’s future has been overlooked by the Democratic minority in Madison (a view that angers many of them). She is being pushed forward by Lena Taylor and shares the senator’s desires to expand school choice and belief that the legislature needs more black women, almost regardless. 

No candidate is promoting the blunt racial text of 2012 – not this time.  But there is a subliminal racial  hangover that all the candidates admit in interviews they sense -- and dislike.  It’s there in the whisper tactics, mainly in Shorewood and mainly against Bowen.

Given the extraordinary high turnout in Shorewood for Pasch and given Bowen’s history as a strong, young black male leader willing to shake the status quo with streetwise instincts and humanity, Shorewood residents are being challenged to understand why he not only has the support of Pasch but also leading progressive voices in the Democratic Party who normally stay out of choosing among Democrats in a primary.  (Most unusually, Bowen was the only man US Rep. Moore gave a favorable shout-out to June 4 when Emerge Wisconsin honored her as woman of the year and held a banquet to promote more female candidates).
“I don’t care about the county board or county politics,” commented Rep. Evan Goyke in a nearby central city district. “I’m supporting David and came out early for him before anyone else was in the race because I’ve never seen an elected official have such a genuine connection  to a younger generation and instinctively know how to move the ball forward. I wish I had such an inspirational appeal.”

Do these progressives also sense something of a hangover from 2012? Or do they simply realize that the guard is changing in American politics and Bowen is the voice for the near future?

Popular Sandy Pasch, the district's hard-working
 departing representative, has come out
 four-square behind Bowen as her replacement.
His choice would certainly thwart the ugly thinking behind gerrymandering in this area. The GOP thought they had successfully eliminated Pasch along with directly increasing Democrats’ control of central city Milwaukee and Shorewood, a suburb that the GOP had given up hope of ever winning. Gerrypolitics allowed them to strengthen the Republican hold on Sen. Alberta Darling’s territory, which Pasch’s popularity was threatening (in a recall contest in 2011, she came within 8% and led much of election night). It played into the idea that all Democrats were as interchangeable as all Republicans have lately become.

One Republican operative -- in blatantly racist off-the-record remarks referring to Shorewood residents  as “riffraff” and District 10 as “the ghetto” --   explained to me the strategy behind this gerrymandering, moving Pasch’s Assembly District 22 wholesale to Menomonee Falls to assure that Pasch could never again challenge Darling and then inserting Shorewood within District 10 (part of the senate constituent holdings of Taylor) conceding the suburb to the Democrats for the foreseeable future.

(Nationwide as well as in Wisconsin, demographics and devotion to the idea of unchangeable voters seem to be backfiring on the GerryGOP.)  

What they had not anticipated is that Pasch would simply move over to District 10 and win handily. She successfully bridged the different problems of the Milwaukee and Shorewood sections, proving the strongest champion for both.  They still don’t understand that younger voters are making their voting power felt in large numbers and that older voters are hardly as arthritic in attitudes as the GOP thinks or frankly as many traditional black Democrats think.

When this April Pasch made the surprising decision to retire, the search for a new voice went on the decision block for August 12 -- someone truly progressive and also a bridge based on proven ability and familiarity with the full range of problems. Not just Shorewood’s problems, though the suburb has an outsized hold on the results.

Shorewood is only about 14,000 members of the 50,000 member district, but in 2012 it reflected the best organized and decisive voting record – 35% of the total.  Shorewood has its own important and tightly orchestrated village leaders to handle the local municipal issues from sewage to public safety to TIFs while realizing its Madison delegate must work with like-minded colleagues on the larger ideological and financial concerns for Wisconsin as well as the district.  As Pasch herself emphasizes, “Shorewood’s fate relies on a strong Milwaukee,” so success for both parts of the district is interlocked.

Though at the county he represented a portion of District 10, Bowen knows he has to work to introduce himself to the entire community. “My original race for the county board was not this  intense,” he admitted in an interview,  “and I should have come out of the gate faster.  In my defense, I had to focus so much on fund-raising, which was not my past priority.” That was just proving he could legislate effectively for the community.  Now, said a Madison veteran in a personal email,   “He has to learn to do more doors and let people see up close how his abilities help all generations.”

Bowen  came out of Bradley Tech and then demonstrated  organizing skills at Urban Underground, which  builds a new generation of leaders through community service. This is a street savvy organization within the black community and its worth is unfamiliar to many voting residents of Shorewood.   In person Bowen is articulate on issues, prone to listen and weigh. The effectiveness of his energetic proposals and personality at the county board given his youth – or perhaps because of it -- took many of his colleagues by surprise, they told me.
But Bowen readily concedes that his has not been the most professional polished campaign so far and the most knowledgeable of all the insider ropes. “Tia has far more experience and more connections from working with Abele and his supporters,” he points out.  (A friend and well-known political consultant, Thad Nation, is serving as Torhorst’s campaign treasurer.)

The bulk of District 10 including  Rufus King High School faces problems that Shorewood residents can empathize with but don’t directly suffer – high levels of unemployment, daily concerns about safety and security, distressingly big numbers of male black incarceration for minor offenses, housing issues and so forth.   Candidate Grant worried in an interview that such differences could be crippling:  “Milwaukee has so many needs that Shorewood residents can’t connect the dots.”  Clearly Pasch, Bowen and others disagree.

Bria Grant is backed
 by Sen. Lena Taylor
But the original district was also a hotbed of the voucher school movement for poorer black children, and today that history is part of the hangover.  Residents are  confused after nearly  a quarter of a century that such schools do not perform better or even as well as public schools though they get public money.  The voucher surge has been on the whole less responsible even if more sales savvy in their operations and test results and have been prone to scam artists seeking a profit more than lasting academic gains.
While such failures distress early believers, they haven’t abandoned the concept even as they recognize how “school choice” talking points have become dominant -- despite contrary reliable evidence -- for the GOP and the right-wing American Federation for Children, which funds many accepting Democratic candidates such as Taylor.

Candidate Tia Torhorst emphasizes
 her Shorewood residence and political
 experience more than her connection to Abele.
It’s understandable that all the candidates are wary of the press coverage, which simplifies the issues when it pays attention. Torhorst handles it smoothly since she has a long record as a political player raising money for many causes (“I’m not ashamed of that fund-raising ability,” she told me). But she objects to how the media describes her as a tool of County Executive Chris Abele.  She served for two years as his county legislative director and then as his campaign director.

Her insistence is better understood by insiders than the public (one voter commented that “it is hard to make a great sound-bite out of the preference for compromise”). Established political hires point out that championing your boss’ views and style is different than the paths chosen on your own. Though, of course, they concede “in case of deep divisions with your boss’ policies, you can always resign.”

In this case, the realities won’t become clearer until official campaign finance reports come out in late July and August, addressing the rumors about how much money and/or  staffing help Abele has given her. That will be too late for most of the press.

Torhorst concedes that “running for public office was not on my bucket list” since she was best known as background political insider. Many friends say they were openly surprised when  she decided late to get into the race --  after Bowen announced. But she said it was out of   “concern that I brought the right talents for working with the other side.”  (Many progressives take that as code for expecting the  “other side” to remain in control of more than one Madison chamber while they expect to win back the Senate.)

Her literature points out that she is the only candidate living in the district and is the best spokesperson for public education, knowing how highly regarded public schools are in Shorewood and that MPS’ Rufus King is one of the nation’s highest rated high schools.

Such campaign statements  raise eyebrows, particularly “the only candidate with a child in a public school in the district.”  That has to be parsed carefully.  By “district” she means Shorewood, which doesn’t yet have the voucher schools and diverse options and confusions the city part of the district contends with. And the hint that the other candidates are “carpetbagging”?  Bowen represented part of the district on the Milwaukee board and is moving into a house in the community.  Grant says she does her main work in the district. Since Bowen is a bachelor he doesn’t have a child in any school. Grant has a child entering an MPS school in the fall.

Bowen has also been attacked by political gossipers  that his campaign treasurer is a closet voucher school advocate. It is actually his sister, who did attend a Howard Fuller convention event but has children going to an MPS school.

Bowen for his part has spoken publicly about his opposition to voucher schools and the nature of state funding of such schools along with displeasure at privateers seeking profits on the backs of children.  So education is that complicated issue that suffers from simple-sounding claims. If having a minor child in a public school became a voting requirement, there would be little turnout Aug. 12.

Torhorst dismisses assumptions that she is in the race mainly because of Abele’s displeasure at how successfully Bowen pushed his views on the county board as its new upstart member, including a higher minimum wage for companies contracting with the county. Given Abele’s considerable wealth, high profile supporting LBGT and gay marriage, and other causes associated with the left, it is a curious situation. Abele has said he supports a higher minimum wage but just disagreed – to the point of veto? -- with how Bowen did it. Since Bowen helped the county board push an advisory referendum on the November ballot for all the county to address a higher minimum and change the pitiful state law, both she and Abele back this without giving Bowen credit.

Others do – “The aim of good legislators is to look at what they can influence and take it to the edge,” said a Madison legislator who insisted that naming him would “drag me into a political situation I don’t know enough about.”  But he added, “You have to like the person who acts on principle without waiting for polls to tell them what the public thinks.”

Torhorst has credential to be considered her own person and your friendly Shorewood neighbor (campaign literature again), yet needs to find a way to embrace and separate herself from Abele.  “My husband jokes that the first thing I say at the doors is I’m not Chris Abele though I support many of his positions,” she told me.

Despite her insistence that Abele and Bowen weren’t the reasons she got into this race, she has stirred anger in painting herself as a “proven progressive”  in her county service, such as:  “I’m proud that when I was Legislative Director for Chris Abele we funded a job-training program that took 500 people who were making $8/hour and taught them new skills for jobs that pay more than $15/hour. This is a model we should expand across the 10th District and all of Wisconsin.”

That spurred a particularly virulent anti-Abele comment column but with accurate quotes from Cognitive  Dissidence  pointing out that she and  Abele didn’t propose the Ready to Work idea and actually tried to kill and veto it, mainly because two supervisors on the county board proposed and pushed it to success --  Bowen’s predecessor Eyon Biddle, who was outraged by her misstatements,  and Theodore Lipscomb who confirmed to me his deep sadness over her claim in this response:  "She is knowingly revising history and it bears no resemblance to the truth. The very thing she says that she supports and that we should replicate is what she worked hard against and what her boss energetically vetoed." 

County Executive Chris Abele's role in this race
 has become a hot topic of speculation.
Democrats who have worked with Abele and enjoyed his largesse insisted on remaining anonymous as they commented that he is a thin-skinned “my way or the highway” leader “who opposes ideas if he can’t take credit for them.” Yet they credit him with believing his vision for the county is the right one and that others should quietly heed it.  Now, with Dan Adams running with his financial support in District 19 (a future story) and Torhorst in 10, one elected official interviewed says Abele is “trying to stack the deck in Madison with his breed of compliant Democrats.” 

Bowen keeps his counsel on his opponents but other local officials believe Tia did more as an employee than serving as an echo chamber for Abele. 

There’s another issue for those attuned to county politics. Torhorst actually testified for Act 14 downsizing the county board, and she still thinks it was a nonpartisan move to better government, but her statements were unpleasant, exaggerated and extremely personal in attacking the county board as wasteful and inefficient. She criticized the turnover on the board that others regard as healthy new blood and the natural purpose of the election process. She timed her accusations of bad behavior to an Abele-led attack on a supervisor for corruption, though that failed when the supervisor was quickly acquitted on all charges by a jury. Later the Abele chosen department head who orchestrated the charges resigned.

Downsizing is yet another rift in the district. For Shorewood,  a suburb with its own strong  local leaders and local police, you might justify a part-time county board representative in normal circumstances. But for the Milwaukee portion of District 10, you could probably use three full time county supervisors to help with the issues.

The candidate who most fears press vilification is Grant, since she is accustomed to seeing  her education views twisted into political buzz words. She insists she is focused whatever the source on “quality education”  though of course “quality education” is also a buzz phrase, depending on who interprets quality.  She is also backed in this race by Taylor, who receives funding from the right-wing American Federation for Children, a conduit that may appear in Grant’s later GAB reports. 

“We’re focused on older education systems that have to be open to new ideas,” Grant says, and she is talking not just about school districts but also the voucher program funded with taxpayer money. “I simply want a wider approach” with a particular focus on early education funding. That early education emphasis puts her in direct opposition with such Republicans as Glenn Grothman who opposes all early education. But she is also unhappy with Democrats in the Assembly. “They don’t have a plan for moving Milwaukee forward,” she says.  Other Democrats in the Assembly call that naïve and misguided given how hard they work for Milwaukee and have been hitting their heads against the GOP brick wall.

There is a fourth Democrat in the race but Sara Johann is regarded as a pleasant but  perennial candidate who started out as a District 19 candidate and switched after making little inroad.

Whoever wins Aug. 12 – and you can vote in that race right now -- is assuredly the district’s next representative.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as editor for its famous entertainment Green Sheet, then for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news.
From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with its still operative archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for