Now it’s our turn

Today is the big day – your chance to weigh in on the referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s policies. 

No wait, Walker isn’t on the ballot and there is no question that will allow to vote up or down on his proposals to end collective bargaining for public employees, cut $900 million from Wisconsin public schools, restructure medical assistance programming and increase road construction funding.

Instead, your votes will choose a Supreme Court Justice, a new executive in Milwaukee County and a variety of supervisors, circuit court judges and school board members.

In January, these races were sleepy and some of the winners were even preordained. But in the last six weeks, following the protests across the state concerning the budget repair bill and biennial budget proposal, many of the races have become more about Walker and less about the actual names on the ballot.

In the Supreme Court race – incumbent Justice David Prosser was a shoe-in to win against unknown Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, but what a difference a few weeks makes.

Prosser has a 12-year record as a moderate conservative voice on the bench, plus years in the legislature and as a district attorney in Outagamie County (Appleton). Kloppenburg has spent 20-plus years working for the state as a litigator and prosecutor, primarily focusing on environmental issues for the Department of Natural Resources. Both candidates have claimed they will be independent and impartial, but both have strikes against them in that area.

Prosser’s campaign manager sent out a press release in December, describing his boss as being a “compliment to the new Walker administration.” Prosser has denied approving the release, but Kloppenburg has made a good effort pinning the comments to him personally.

Kloppenburg hasn’t personally projected future votes on issues that may come before the court, but her third-party supporters, union contributors and Walker protesters have called on her as “a vote against Walker” and “a check on Walker’s policies.” She denies she is beholden, but will her supporters be understanding if she is not?

Whoever the winner, Prosser or Kloppenburg will fill a 10-year term on the court.

On the local level, Jeff Stone and Chris Abele are seeking the Milwaukee County Executive post. Stone received 43 percent of the primary vote, with Chris Abele netting 25 percent.The  three other primary candidates captured the remaining 32 percent. Where those voters go will determine who wins this race.

Abele has spent much of his personal wealth to run ads equating Stone with Walker. Stone voted for the Governor’s budget repair bill in the Assembly, which removed most of the collective bargaining rights from public employees. Stone has said he agreed with Walker’s policies, but personally would have tried to change the arbitration process enjoyed by public workers, not the bargaining issues.

Stone and his allies have spent most of there time pointing out Abele’s personal weaknesses – multiple parking tickets, a drunk driving charge and disorderly conduct charge that led to bench warrants for his arrest and his spotty college record. Abele countered that he has paid his debts to society, learned from the episodes and left school to start a business and create jobs.

Both agree on not raising property taxes, the importance of public transit and the need to foster cooperation between the county and its municipalities. Abele wants to take $36 million in federal transit funds held by the county to pay for operating costs, while Stone would like to redirect automobile sales taxes into a county transit dedicated fund.

Abele points to his work in the private and non-profit sector as an example of working with people on both sides of the political philosophical argument and Stone points to his service as a state legislator and Greenfield city alderman as his experience in bi-partisanship.

Whether you vote for Stone or Abele, this election will fill the final year of the term Walker vacated when he moved to Madison. Watch for the next campaign for this seat to begin in earnest this coming November.

There are other non-partisan races on the ballot in Milwaukee County, including the 14th County Supervisory District to fill Sen. Chris Larson’s vacant seat and the 10th County Supervisory District to fill Rep. Elizabeth Coggs vacant board seat. Community activist Jason Haas and trucking company owner Steven Kraeger are running for Larson’s seat, while Service Employees International Union Director Eyon Biddle and attorney Tearman Spencer will face off for Cogg’s vacancy.

Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Pedro Colón faces Glendale Municipal Court Judge Christopher Lipscomb Sr. for a the 4th Circuit bench. Colón was appointed to the seat last year by former Gov. Jim Doyle after 12 years as a Assemblyman representing the near South Side of Milwaukee. He has presided over juvenile cases since taking the bench.

Lipscomb (his brother is Milwaukee County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb) has been a municipal judge for 12 years and a municipal prosecutor in the villages of River Hills and Brown Deer for 19 years. He has been supported by multiple police unions in the county and the sheriff deputy’s union and numerous municipal and circuit court judges.

So, now it is in your hands. You choose who you want to represent your ideas and ideologies. But remember, in a representative government, the winners won’t always side with you – there is room for interpretation and personal judgement. You’re voting for a voice, not a puppet.

If you need to register to vote, please take a form of photo identification and a bill or other piece of mail that shows your current address to the polling station. For information on where to vote, visit the following municipal voting sites:


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