Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Blue-ing of the Burbs

I grew up in Whitefish Bay -- a suburb just north of Milwaukee -- and currently live there (no, not with my parents...I'm a few blocks away now).

Whitefish Bay has been traditionally associated with Republican voters, as have most of the suburbs in the North Shore (aside from, perhaps, Shorewood). In the 2002 midterm election, for instance, Whitefish Bay voters opted for Scott McCallum over Jim Doyle, Vince Biskupic over Peg Lautenschlager, and Jim Sensenbrenner over Bryan Kennedy.

But, as this year's election demonstrates, that trend is changing. Just recently, Whitefish Bay released detailed results of the 2006 election on its website.

This year, not only did Doyle defeat Mark Green in Whitefish Bay, but Kathleen Falk defeated JB Van Hollen, Bryan Kennedy defeated Jim Sensenbrenner, the civil unions and marriage amendment was shot down by 20 percent of the vote, and the death penalty referendum was voted down by 22 percent of the vote.

According to a study by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, the leftward trend in Whitefish Bay is taking place in other suburbs nationwide, as well. The study found that while Dems gained 53 percent of the vote in "inner suburbs" of the nation's fifty largest metro areas in the 2002 midterms, that percentage jumped to 60 percent this year.

And other statistics show this isn't just a 2006 thing. In the 2000 presidential race, George Bush defeated Al Gore by 10 points in Whitefish Bay. In 2004, however, Kerry actually edged Bush in Whitefish Bay by a little less than one percent.

That's quite a turnaround. And it's one that has importance in the next few years as the landscape of suburban politics in Milwaukee County changes. I'm sure GOP politicians like Alberta Darling and Scott Walker are watching these changes closely.

All of a sudden a good portion of Darling's senate district is looking quite blue, just in time for her re-election bid in 2008. Whitefish Bay was one of Darling's last remaining Milwaukee County strongholds in 2004, which she won that year by 6 points. She also won in the more northern suburbs of Fox Point, Bayside, and River Hills, but there are fewer voters in those villages combined than there are in Whitefish Bay.

And while Darling's district extends into portions of conservative Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties, Milwaukee County still represents about one-half of the voters in her district. If the leftward trend continues in the Milwaukee County suburbs, a victory won't be so easy for Darling next time around, especially against a well-known challenger like, say, Sheldon Wasserman.

And, as for Walker, I have a feeling he might be hearing a few less cheers each year when he walks in Whitefish Bay's annual Fourth of July parade. It appears his suburban GOP base is waning fast, and the next Milwaukee County executive race is coming up just as quickly.


Anonymous Jason said...

As someone who lived in Fox Point during part of the Reagan 80s, this is very encouraging.

That said, I will be staying in Bay View, hopefully for a long time to come.

November 30, 2006  

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