by Monica Reida
Who said money can get you what you want?
At the end of the February 16 primary, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele was behind Sen. Chris Larson (D-7th) by more than 700 votes. Although they both are advancing to the April 5 election, the result of this primary is a little surprising.
Abele has poured $4.4 million of his own money into his reelection campaign, according to disclosures from the Milwaukee County Election Commission. Larson’s total contributions from his supporters up until the primary were $28,739, which is 0.6 percent of what Abele’s personal contributions have been.
Even though Abele ultimately gets to advance to the next election, which was the end goal of all four candidates on the ballot for the primary, his campaign has a reason to worry about the results.
Of the 112,235 ballots cast in Milwaukee County for the primary, 65,159 of those were just people voting in the race for mayor of Milwaukee. That means 58 percent of the people who voted were voting for one city’s municipal election. Although that doesn’t mean everyone who voted for mayor of Milwaukee voted for County Executive, it still means a little more than half of the votes came from the city that accounts for 62.6 percent of the county’s population.
What is interesting is if you compare the results for this primary to the 2011 primary, which was held to find a replacement for Milwaukee County Executive after Scott Walker was elected governor. There were 98,090 votes cast in that election, with Jeff Stone coming in first with 42,113 and Abele coming in second with 24,884. When the April election came around, Abele won with 137,380 votes while Stone received 92,223 votes.
There is clearly a precedent for Abele to come in second in the primary with an even larger gap in votes and then pull out an impressive win. What could work in either candidate’s favor is the election in April also serving as a way for voters to pick their preference for the presidential race. This has the potential of being a very big election since neither party has an incumbent president running for reelection. This could result in residents in the suburbs turning out in larger numbers to vote for Milwaukee County Executive.
Similarly, voter turnout could potentially increase for Milwaukee since the mayoral race has been narrowed down to two candidates and voters may vote in larger numbers to either keep Mayor Tom Barrett or elect Ald. Bob Donovan (8th District). On the other hand, the two candidates being the incumbent mayor and an outspoken South Side alderman could disenfranchise voters, leading to a lower turnout at the polls in Milwaukee.
What can be counted on as a result of the tight results from February 16 is that both Abele and Larson’s campaigns will be working particularly hard to handily win the election, especially if Abele wants lighting to strike twice with his campaign.