Milwaukee County Executive Race Will Have Democrats Divided

Oct 19, 2015

While we’re still more than a year away from the presidential election, we’re a little closer to another race that is shaping up to be an interesting one. The election for Milwaukee County Executive happens in April, and thus far pits incumbent Chris Abele against State Senator Chris Larson.

The fact that there is a race at all, let alone a potentially competitive one, would have struck some political observers as surprising a few months ago. However, editor and columnist at Urban Milwaukee, Bruce Murphy says a few things have happened to make this a race worth watching. 

"It’s very much a surprise that there is even an opponent to Abele, because I think as recently as last June everyone expected that Abele wouldn’t even have an opponent, and would just waltz to victory. And really look like someone who could potentially run for higher office – say, for governor or senator," says Murphy.

Initially during his campaign for county executive and the beginning of his term, Abele was seen as a strong Democrat. But as the Milwaukee County Executive's power has increased, people are switching their allegiance.

The key deal breaker for Chris Larson and other democrats was Abele's willingness to work with Republicans who crafted a way to increase choice and charter schools in the city.

"I think that it's likely that Larson will get support from most members of the Milwaukee County Board, also most members of the Milwaukee School Board, the Milwaukee Teachers Union," Murphy says. "This is going to be a race where you're going to have Democrats definitely divided."

Murphy also adds that Milwaukee County itself is never a clear indicator of who will win politically given its history of supporting Democrats, yet with vastly different results in electing Governor Walker.

Bruce Murphy's Urban Milwaukee article on the race is titled Chris Larson's War Against Abele.