Many of you probably know that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has an ongoing conversation on how to select candidates for public office. One group prefers selecting a single Democratic candidate and going all in to support that candidate and avoiding a primary. We saw a bit of this when the unions tried to dissuade Mayor Barrett from entering the gubernatorial recall election. The other group believes that active robust primaries are a strong indicator of a functioning democracy and will result in the best candidate moving forward. I tend toward the second group.
The issue gets a little murkier when established incumbents are involved. Many people believe that the Democratic Party should support Democratic incumbents at the cost of missing out on viable new candidates who may actually prove to be better legislators.
Right now there are progressive Democratic candidates running against Democratic incumbents in the Milwaukee area. Blogging Blue hasn’t really paid much attention to the 2012 local elections yet, so The Capital Times is a lap ahead of us.
On June 20, 2012, Jack Craver wrote an article for The Capital Times about three incumbent Democrats who were being challenged by other progressive Democratic candidates. Mr. Craver interviewed the candidates plus included a number of quotes from State Senator Chris Larson through out the article. Sen. Larson is the only elected official included. I can am guessing it is because he defeated incumbent Democrat Jeff Plale in 2010. Or maybe it was because Sen. Larson was readily available and as always highly quotable. Of course Sen. Larson was highly visible as one of the Wisconsin 14 in 2011 and is considered a rising star in the state party.
But the comments by Senator Larson about the contest in the 11th Assembly District, where Mandela Barnes is challenging Representative Jason Fields, drew some serious local fire.
From an email by Representative Fields:
Ok team! So we expected this nonsense. Let us not get distracted. It appears that our opponent has teamed up and is taking orders from Democrat Sen. Chris Larson, to my knowledge he has passed no bills doing (sic) the 2011-2012 session, but somehow has become the authority figure on what I am doing or not doing.
Apparently, they missed the fact that I have more bills signed and passed into law during the 2011-2012 session than any other Democrat in the state. Not to mention that I was the first Dem to get something past (sic).
Secondly, one needs to only view my FB photo album which captures the many things I have done in the community, from food drops, to book-bag & Pencil give aways, to sponsoring a number of youth events out of pockett (sic), etc… I am not sure what community they are referring to.
Unfortunatley (sic), once again some Dems believe it is okay to attempt to go to battle with their own. Foolishness at it’s (sic) best.
I am not aware of any prior issues between Rep. Fields and Sen. Larson. When I contacted Mr. Barnes, he stated that his only contact with Sen. Larson about the campaign was at the 2011 state convention when he told Sen. Larson that he was thinking about running. So I am writing off the charge of Mr. Barnes taking orders from Sen. Larson as campaign hyperbole and nothing more.
Ironically, when I did as Rep. Fields suggests and checked his Facebook page, everything is there as he states, plus the very first item under the Jason’s Interests is: Chris Larson.
But the conflict doesn’t stop there. It turns down right ugly when the quote from Rep. Fields was forwarded to the members of the DPW Black Caucus by Wisdems Black Caucus Chair Stephanie Findley with her own comments (the link she refers to is the Cap Times article that I’ve linked above):
Anyone reading the email below or clicking on the link below tell Chris Larson for me to go to HELL and stay the HELL out of the Black Communities business. Signed Stephanie Findley
I am going to pretty much let that statement stand on its own…except to say I thought it ugly and unnecessary…and I don’t know if this is appropriate coming from a caucus chair and the chair of the 4th Congressional District…particularly since it included the indicia: Authorized and paid for by Democratic Party of Wisconsin Black Caucus Stephanie Findley, Chair, Michael Thomas, Treasurer
Before I started work on this article, I emailed Ms. Findley and let her know what I was working on and gave her the opportunity to comment. She graciously expanded on her thoughts and here is her response in its entirety:
Chris Larson has made some very inappropriate comments about the elected leaders in the African American Community. He has decided that he is the person who can make decisions on who can run for office in our community without even having conversations with any of the Black Elected Officials, Black Community Leaders or our Faith Leadership whatsoever.
He has made it known about how he feels about Black Representation by involving himself in the 10th Assembly District race that has served the African American community since 1972. In the Black community, the voters get to decide who shall represent our community not Chris. He has been very disrespectful to our community and our feelings as it relates to Black Representation. We understand that the republicans drew the lines but it’s our so call progressives who are running in open majority Black seats in our community and he is at the forefront of deciding who’s fit to represent us. Our community is already in a fragile state of mind and we don’t need someone who thinks he can find some tokens who will become puppeteers under his leadership while he pulls the strings and tells them what to think and how to think as it relates to making future decisions that will impact the African American community for decades to come.
The Democratic Party suffered a serious setback with Gov. Walker’s re-election in the recall election. Milwaukee doesn’t currently have much influence in Madison. And Governor Walker did all he could to demonize Milwaukee during the recall.
We don’t have the luxury for infighting anymore. But that doesn’t mean that incumbents get a pass and get to avoid Democratic challengers in the primaries. As Ms. Findley says, the voters get to decide and they should have honest actual choices on the ballot. We need to elect vibrant viable progressives. We need to elect them to common councils, county boards, and as state legislators. They need to know they represent more than their districts. They need to be able to work together to promote and provide for the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. They need to know that everything they do affects their district, their city and the state of Wisconsin!