Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Looks Like Lena Taylor Is In

I'm not aware of an official announcement, but word on the street is that state senator Lena Taylor will be running against Scott Walker for Milwaukee County executive this coming spring.

Conventional thinking is that to defeat Walker, the Dems need a candidate who can reach into the suburbs to take a chunk out of his base.

But while the suburbs might be Walker's base in terms of percentage of support and campaign donations, it's arguable that the city is what won him the election in 2004; and this makes Taylor a solid choice to upend him in 2008.

In the 2004 spring election in which Walker defeated David Riemer, the total vote was 251,158 with 88,132 coming from the suburbs and 163,026 coming from the city. And while Walker won most overwhelmingly in the suburbs -- 57,373 to 29,342 -- he also won the city by a margin of 78,726 to 71,647.

What makes this even more important is turnout. Although some may believe the suburbs would be more likely to get out to vote for a spring election, it was actually the city that had the best turnout.

In comparison to November 2004 when the presidential race was on the ballot, the suburban totals from April 2004 were only 42 percent of the suburban totals from November 2004, while the city totals from the spring were a full 59 percent of the city's fall turnout.

And in comparison to the turnout this past fall, the suburban totals in April 2004 were 59 percent of the suburban totals from November 2006, and the city totals in April 2004 were 97 percent of the city totals in November 2006.

In other words, it was really the city that showed up to elect the county executive in 2004, while the suburbs, which are often credited with being the part of the county that's kept Walker on top, largely stayed home.

So this means that Walker's opponent really needs to focus on changing, as opposed to getting out, the city vote (see UPDATE below). And Taylor is a great candidate for this task considering the wide swath of Milwaukee that she represents as state senator, including 33 wards that Walker won in 2004.

By focusing on a couple of key points, such as transit and the parks, Taylor should be able to capitalize on the media coverage of proposed cuts to these areas by Walker and, as a result, clearly differentiate herself from Walker when it comes to issues that are of high concern for much of the city.

And Taylor will have the added bonus of being recognized as a known Democratic politician, unlike Riemer in 2004, which will highlight the fact that Walker is the Republican in the technically nonpartisan race (voters don't get the handy "D" and "R" listed on the ballot for them).

Doyle won 72 percent of the city vote last November. If Taylor matches that, or even a little less, along with the suburban totals netted by Riemer in 2004 -- which shouldn't be difficult considering the bluing of the 'burbs in recent years -- then she should win the race handily.

And, if not, she goes back to her position as state senator. But, if Walker loses, he won't have such a comfy fall -- it'd be a long two years out of office before the next governor's race in 2010.

UPDATE: Xoff makes a good point in the comments that the hotly contested mayoral race for Milwaukee in spring 2004 was a big reason for the strong city turnout in that election, which suggests Taylor will need to do some getting out the vote work since there doesn't appear to be a heated race for mayor on tap, though it could get hot if David Clarke enters the fray again (this potentially creates a bit of a quandry for Clarke, who is known to be tight with Walker).

But there is still the significant issue of city voters pulling the lever for Walker once they were out to vote in April 2004, which something Taylor has the strong potential to remedy.

And even if you split the difference in the city turnout for the county exec special election in 2002 with the turnout in 2004 -- which would drop the number to around 125,000 -- garnering around 70 percent of the city vote like Doyle did last November still seems to be a pretty solid benchmark for Taylor, and that's not even considering potential gains she could make in the bluing 'burbs.

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16 Comments:

Blogger Xoff said...

The city turnout in 2004 was driven by a hotly contested mayor's race between Tom Barrett and Marvin Pratt.

At the moment, there's no race for mayor, so that may depress the city vote, unless the Taylor campaign can crank it up.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Good point. I just added an update.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

The Milwaukee JS reports that Taylor denies having announced at FightingBobFest.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

It's true she didn't announce at BobFest, and that's a good thing. It makes more sense to officially announce in Milwaukee County with the Milwaukee media present.

September 12, 2007  
Anonymous M.Z. Forrest said...

I think the blue-ing in the 'burbs you refer to is of a more liberterian character than a strict liberal character. This is why Doyle and Kerry could find support, but Walker wouldn't necessarily be hurt.

The thing Walker has going for him is that he isn't as unpopular as many people think he is, as you point out in his city support during the last election. My experience in Milwaukee is more than several years passed now. I dealt significantly with the Transit Plus crowd, and they weren't all that happy about the cost increases they incurred. That issue in the rest of the city was viewed more as "that's what needed to be done". Due to the pension scandal, "what's needed to be done" has offered a lot of cover for Walker, and I think it will continue to do so.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The pension scandal was two years old in 2004, and it'll be six years old next spring -- I'm not sure how much more cover it's going to be providing Walker (as recent polling has suggested).

And the trend in the Milwaukee County 'burbs -- at least on the North Shore -- has been legitimately liberal. This is a trend that's been happening for decades; as the sprawl continues to the north, the "old suburbs" closer to the city turn more reliably liberal. Heck, Shorewood used to be a conservative village, and now it's one of the most reliably liberal areas in the county. That transition is happening in WFB now; the entire village was conservative, then the south end turned liberal, and now the entire village is blue. To be sure, In the 2002 midterm election, for instance, WFB voters opted for Scott McCallum over Jim Doyle, Vince Biskupic over Peg Lautenschlager, and Jim Sensenbrenner over Bryan Kennedy. In November '06, however, 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.

That's why Wasserman is feeling justifiably confident enough to challenge Darling this year; without strong support from the North Shore 'burbs, he wouldn't stand a chance. And, for that matter, why the state Dems don't mind letting Wasserman give it a shot. There's no question the 22nd AD -- which encompasses Shorewood, WFB, Fox Point, River Hills, and most of Glendale -- is going to be retained by the Dems, in spite of the fact that prior to Wasserman a GOPer (Polly Beal) held that seat. No GOPer is even seriously considering a bid there now.

September 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Taylor, add in that Wauwatosa has been going blue. That's huge, for those of us who grew up there! And it has a lot more votes than several North Shore burbs combined. And Walker seems very unpopular in Tosa, from friends and others I hear there.

Re the North Shorew, Wasserman ought to feel confident. (But of course, he will keep knocking on doors and never be over-confident.) He has run a good office that serves us well here, while Darling's operation hasn't been calling back for years. Service -- or lack of it -- can matter as much as ideology and larger issues at this semi-local level.

As for larger, state-level issues, he is a UWM grad and proud of it, and he has well served thousands of campus employees in his district. (Surprise! Few can live in River Hills.) Also see if his operation can get out the campus vote -- with half of almost 30,000 students living on or close to campus -- and recall what the UW vote did in several state Dem races.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment, Anon. I had that feeling about Tosa, too, but I'm not as familiar with it as I am with the North Shore. Jim Sullivan was able to defeat Tom Reynolds in the Tosa wards in '06 after Reynolds won there in '02; and while Leah Vukmir still took the Tosa wards in her Nov. '06 win, David Cullen took the other Tosa wards (and more decisively so) in his win over Rick Baas.

September 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it's hardly a librul hotbed, as you will see, below. But keep in mind that Reynolds was a blip, and I think he got in with the West Alien vote, as his predecessor from Tosa and very popular there was the very moderate Peggy Rosenzweig.

So -- since I sent a friend in Tosa your post last fall about the blueing of the North Shore burbs, only fair that I send you his then. below. It is far different from a few decades ago, when my folks were among the few Dems in the entire town.

But some things don't change there, and they still love their lovely county parks and the bus service straight down to downtown. So many are not happy with Walker on those counts alone.

"Remember when Wauwatosa was conservative? In the 2004 election, 46% of the city's voters voted for Kerry, and 52% for Feingold. Now, check out this recent story from the Wauwatosa News-Times:

"Voters call to bring troops home: Local residents oppose death penalty, support marriage amendment
By Janice Kayser
Staff Writer
Posted: Nov. 10, 2006

"Wauwatosa voters support withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, according to the response to the local referendum question on the Nov. 7 ballot.

"According to unofficial election results released Nov. 7 at City Hall, a little more than 57 percent of Wauwatosa voters are in favor of pulling troops out of the Middle East compared to nearly 43 percent who oppose such a move.

"More than 72 percent of Wauwatosa's registered voters turned out to vote.

"Michael Duffey, a Wauwatosa resident and Marquette University theology professor, was in charge of the Candlelight Coalition's petition and signature-gathering efforts to force the referendum question on the Nov. 7 ballot. He was pleased with the results.

"The passage of the Wauwatosa referendum to bring the troops home means that citizens will not sit idly by while the administration uses American military force unwisely and with tragic consequences," said Duffey.

"We will continue to use the democratic processes to get every American home from Iraq. We must all join in charting a new course for America."

"Several other Wisconsin communities also showed support for withdrawing troops with similar referendum questions on their local ballots. Nationwide, about 6 million Americans were able to vote on the "bring the troops home" question, according to the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

"Organizers are hoping their message - now made official with support from communities across the country - will be heard by the Bush administration.

"In other referenda questions, Wauwatosa differed from much of the state in that it did not show majority support for the death penalty.

"More than 52 percent of Wauwatosa voters did not support reinstating the death penalty for people found guilty of first-degree murder, compared to 47 who favored bringing the death penalty back to Wisconsin. Statewide, voters approved reinstating the death penalty.

"The marriage referendum question to reflect that marriage will only be recognized in Wisconsin as a union between one man and woman was approved by a slight margin in Wauwatosa. Statewide, the referendum was approved.

"About 51 percent of Tosa voters favored the amendment while slightly less than 49 percent voted against it."

September 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another turnout point . . .will Justice Butler being on the ballot in April help increase turnout in the city - among, perhaps, the same communities likely to vote for Sen Taylor?

September 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger BlueBlogger said...

In addition to Seth's comments about the "bluing" of 'burbs like Whitefish Bay, I'd point to the recent for Milwaukee County's Eight Supervisor District. Jursik won in a district that has traditionally supported Scott Walker, and her opponent had been endorsed by Walker and was an unapologetic "yes man" for Walker.

I think this is going to be a rough election for Scott Walker, especially against a well-known, organized opponent.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Anon,

Thanks for sharing the article.

I'm not sure if the SC race will bring too many people to the polls, especially if a conservative candidate doesn't jump in. In fact, I'd suspect the county exec race to be more of a draw for the SC race rather than vice versa. But if a conservative candidate does join and the big special interests take note as they did with Ziegler/Clifford, pouring millions into ads, that could change.

BlueBlogger,

Thanks for bringing up the Jursik win. I was going to mention that in the post, but it slipped my mind when I was typing it out this morning.

September 12, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Rosenzweig lost based on the Elm Grove PLUS West Allis votes--

Reynolds' erratic behavior lost the Elm Grove vote for him (and some West Allis, too)--not to mention a last-minute well-financed RoadBuilder negative blitz.

But Sullivan's extreeeeeeme Lefty-ism ain't going to help him against a respectable (R)

September 13, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Care to share what "extreeeeeeme Lefty-ism" Sullivan has demonstrated, either on the campaign trail or since being elected?

September 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tosa folks and West Allis folks I know (quite a few) like Sullivan just fine. And they don't like "extremism" -- which is what they had in Reynolds and why they would not re-elect him. So I'm also awaiting the answer, Dad, to tell them they've got another one. . . .

Interesting, though, that I don't know anyone in Elm Grove, apparently the center around which the district revolves. Hard to believe, based on comparative populations and good voter turnout in Tosa, at least (I don't know about West Allis turnout).

Not that Elm Grove matters in terms of the Milwaukee County exec race, of course. And that's good.

September 13, 2007  

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