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Riverwest Numbers: Midterm Election Roundup

by Adam J. Lovinus

With the votes all cast and counted, the political winners and losers determined, the time has come for the Democracy Hangover that lasts up until inauguration time in January. This is a time of peaceful closure for politicians and the electorate alike, both burned out from the trench warfare that is the campaign process – candidates are relieved not to be giving that same old stump speech, and voters are thankful for not having to watch six consecutive attack ads while trying to catch the weather forecast.

Here’s some “hair of the dog” – a quick and painless roundup of the 2006 midterm elections. And since all politics are local, the Currents has tabulated the results from the Riverwest wards, and compared them to election numbers for the rest of Milwaukee.

Blue Neighborhood

In a Blue City By and large, elections went the way of Riverwest voters with big-time Democrat victories in the neighborhood and throughout the country. Historically, Wisconsin Democrats count on Milwaukee for votes, and this election was no different. Milwaukee voters favored Dems in every race; blue candidates received huge support from wards on Milwaukee’s left bank – Gov. Jim Doyle especially. The incumbent Dem garnered more than 80 percent of Riverwest votes on his way to a 52-45 win. Doyle is the first Wisconsin Democrat elected to consecutive terms as Governor in more than 30 years.

Incumbent Democrats Gwen Moore and Herb Kohl kept their seats easily and put up big numbers in the Riverwest neighborhood.

The biggest disappointment for Riverwesters was the defeat of Democrat Attorney General Candidate Kathleen Falk. She garnered 85 percent of the neighborhood vote, but was edged out statewide by Republican J.D. Van Hollen by a margin of 0.4 percent.

Greens Top Republicans in Two Races

The Riverwest mentality values all things independent, so naturally third party candidates – especially the Greens – won a better percentage of votes in Riverwest than in Milwaukee at-large.

Green Secretary of State Candidate Michael LaForest polled double digits (11 percent), perhaps because he has the perfect name for a Green Party candidate. Winston Sephus, the Green State Treasurer hopeful, polled over 10 percent in Riverwest.

Both candidates out-polled Republican opponents in Riverwest, as did Green US Senate candidate Rae Vogler.

Sheriff Clarke: Ballot-only Democrat

Sheriff David A. Clarke released a position paper to the media in June 2005 entitled “How One Becomes a Republican” in which Clarke blasts Democratic leadership for being too soft, and then accuses the party of suppressing minority votes. Then he sings praises for the Bush administration – blatantly – at the end. What an odd message for someone who runs as a Democrat in every partisan election.

Riverwesters wishing to vote for an actual Democrat in the race for Milwaukee County Sheriff would have needed to do so in the primary. Incumbent David A. Clarke has made a reputation running as a Democrat-bynecessity, heeding the advice of advisors to deny his Republican ties when seeking election to office in Milwaukee. Clarke edged out actual-Democrat Vince Bobot in the September primary, then trounced Republican Donald Holt in the general election to keep his spot as Sheriff. This strategy has worked so far for Clarke, who has been twice re-elected to Sheriff after being appointed by Republican Governor Scott McCallum in 2002. Either Milwaukee voters haven’t caught on to his clever scheme or they don’t care that much about the Sheriff ’s party lines.

The bottom line: Sheriff Clarke is good at being a politician; he looks good in the uniform and stumps with the best. He plays a good tough-guy, which is great for getting elected sheriff. Politics101.

But is he good at actually being Sheriff? Not according to people who work under him – the Deputies Union backed Bobot.

Referendum Banning Gay Marriage Passes

The campaign for/against the Gay Marriage Amendment grew just as intense – if not more – than any race for office in Wisconsin. This was the question on the ballot:

“Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

It passed 59-41 in Wisconsin.

On its face, the amendment suggested gay marriage or something like gay marriage was being recognized in Wisconsin, when in fact Wisconsin already had a law that banned such marriages, and voting yes would prevent the possibility of the State recognizing civil unions in the future. Traditional family values prevailed in Wisconsin – although family values votes tended toward Democrats this time around – an unexpected result for State Republicans who thought the amendment would drive the Republican base to the polls.

The only two counties to vote “no” were Dane (67 percent) and La Crosse at just above 50 percent. Riverwest voted an overwhelming “no,” tallying over 70 percent in the neighborhood, but Milwaukee voted “yes” at 53 percent.

Other Referenda

The Death Penalty Amendment made it to referendum this term, although this was more of a public opinion poll – this type of “advisory” referendum lacks the executive clout that a regular referendum has behind it. Its purpose is to clue legislators in with their constituency.

Voters were asked if they would support sentencing Murder-I convicts to death if the conviction was supported by DNA evidence. Milwaukee voted “no” at 53 percent; Riverwest voted “no” at 67 percent.

City of Milwaukee residents answered an additional advisory referendum about the Iraq war, asking voters whether they would support a quick withdrawal of U.S. Military forces from Iraq – Milwaukee, “yes” 71 percent; Riverwest, “yes” 78 percent. We’ll see if the White House is listening.

Riverwest Currents online edition – December, 2006