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Politics & Government

Hot Button Issues Could Draw Voters in Milwaukee Mayoral Race

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It appears voters in Milwaukee will have plenty of choices for mayor this spring. City officials are verifying nomination signatures and setting the ballot for a four-way primary in February.

The candidates likely will be: Incumbent Mayor Tom Barrett, along with Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan and Joe Davis, as well as political newcomer James Methu. We asked a few people about what issues voters may consider.

The Milwaukee Police Association held a news conference on Wednesday, to endorse Ald. Bob Donovan. Union President Mike Crivello thinks a couple issues will weigh heavily on voters’ minds as they consider who they want for mayor.

“Our children deserve the finest schools focused on their future successes. Our city streets are in desperate need of repair and safety. Safety of our families, friends and neighbors need immediate review and action,” Crivello says.

Crivello believes in particular, the city’s surging homicide rate will be an issue in the mayor’s race. The rate nearly doubled in 2015. Keisha Krumm heads the activist group Common Ground. She predicts voters will be thinking about recent big investments the city has made. 

“Like the streetcar, the Bucks Arena and even the housing development," Krumm says.

While some constituents may regard the developments as forward-thinking, Krumm says others want the city to invest in such things as recreation facilities for kids, better streets and improvements in the housing stock. Another person thinking about the mayoral election is Jorge Franco. He’s CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. Franco thinks the number one issue on voters’ minds will be economic development. 

“In relation to the Hispanic community, it’s someone who understands diversity, who celebrates diversity and who is sensitive to the high growth of Hispanic markets in the city of Milwaukee because we are driving the growth in the city right now,” Franco says.

Franco also thinks the city’s approval of the streetcar will drive voters to the polls. UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee says issues can change very quickly, especially in municipal elections.

“If there were to be a snowstorm of the century and the city shut down for a week and if people complained about snow plowing then all of a sudden snow plowing would be the number one issue. Or, if there was some horrific crime then people would be concerned about personal safety. It’s sort of the roly-poly nature of politics. Sometimes we don’t know for sure until after the election, what the issues were that made the difference in the results,” Lee says.

Lee notes the general election for mayor will be held April 5, the same day of Wisconsin’s presidential primary. He says some people cast ballots only for president and ignore the mayoral race.

In the meantime, he foresees other interested parties making endorsements. Lee says incumbents usually win in Milwaukee. The last time a sitting mayor lost his re-election bid was in 1940, when Carl Zeidler knocked off Daniel Hoan.