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!

18 Responses to Milwaukee Democrats Playing Badly

  1. Doug Cvetkovich says:

    Over the past couple of years, I have spent a lot of time at events that were attended by democratic members of the assembly, and can’t remember meeting Jason Fields at any of them. I have met and talked with his opponent at events all around Milwaukee, and again, never saw Jason Fields anywhere.

  2. Brian E. says:

    Last time I checked, the “black community” doesn’t own the 10th Assembly district anymore than Chris Larson does. Last time I checked, the CITIZENS, regardless of color, own the 10th Assembly district.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure being able to say “I got more bills passed” is something to be proud of in the last legislative session, considering that means the REPUBLICAN Assembly, REPUBLICAN Senate and REPUBLICAN Governor signed off on them. If he’s that productive in a hyper-partisan government, then you have to wonder if Jason Fields is actually a REPUBLICAN.

    Being visible in the community is one thing, but shunning your party at every single turn is a clear indication you are no friend of the progressive community. He reminds me of another Milwaukee “Democrat”–Sheriff David Clarke. You don’t see him attending Democratic Party functions either.

    Senator Larson has every right to throw his support behind any candidate he chooses. He’s a defender of public schools, civil rights, and social programs meant to uplift our communities. The fact that he would rather endorse someone who has NO political power, and risk alienating someone who has plenty of political power, says a lot about his convictions.

    • GoA says:

      Interesting use of scare quotes around Black community you’ve got there. Almost as interest as the fact you don’t think Black people are citizens.

      With racist Democrats like you, who needs Republicans?

      • shesellsseashells says:

        What a strange, hyperdefensive response. The phrase “Black Community” is quoted, I would suppose, because of Ms. Findley’s statement identifying the question of who to elect as the “Black Communities (sic) business”.

        I am absolutely not going to take a side in this discussion, except to say that to find racism in quoting a phrase seems very unfair to me.

  3. I’m wondering if Rep. Fields has any actual PROOF that Mandela Barnes is taking order from Chris Larson, or is he simply attacking Mandela and Chris because he’s seriously worried about holding onto his seat.

    And shame on Stephanie Findley for her comments about “token” candidates who will become puppets under Chris’s leadership; that’s an absolute slap in the face to Mandela Barnes.

    Here’s a novel idea: instead of Stephanie Findley working her hardest to tear down young African-Americans men and women who are daring to challenge the elected status quo, why doesn’t she work to help build those folks up?

  4. John says:

    White elected officials, Chris Larson is not the only one, trying to impose their will on black districts. Jason Fields is not the only target, they are doing it in the 10th Assembly with a white candidate in a 72% black district and in the 6th Senate with an african american candidate being pushed by these unseen hands from the southside.

  5. @dink_daniels says:

    Chris Larson has only one concern. It’s Chris Larson. He is like that kid in High School. That parents and teachers loved and doted on constantly. But the other students all knew what happened under the bleachers after the game.(metaphorically,of course) 😉

  6. Duane12 says:

    I see some good here!

    Are not Democrats in an attempt to gain a consensus similar to herding cats? Yes, in numbers we are a majority, but our individual route to a common goal takes us in different directions.

    We have seen how the Tea Baggers have captured the GOP to the extent that McConnell and Boehner are irrelevant to leadership.

    I thank God that as a Democrat, I can challenge my Catholic bishops politically for a common good and for those not of my faith.

  7. Randy says:

    Rep. Fields doesn’t have the best record when it comes to Labor issues. I’ve met Mr. Barnes. Looks like he is of African-American descent to me. Doesn’t appear to be marionette material either.
    I do have a strong liking for Ms. Findley, and, the entire thing is kind of confusing.

    • Fields has also taken a lot of money from the Dick and Elizabeth DeVos (voucher school supporters) and a bunch of school choice supporters, as well as Jim, Alice, Christy & Lynne Walton (Wal-Mart). Did I mention he’s also taken a ton of money from folks involved in the payday loan industry? That’s certainly not an industry that’s doing a lot of good for his constituents, predatory lenders that they are.

  8. Jan Tessier says:

    Zach, did you get my e-mail?

  9. Nicholas says:

    “A successful fundraiser, DeVos raised more than $150,000 for the 2004 Bush reelection campaign,[10] and hosted a Republican fundraiser at her home in October 2008 that was headlined by President George W. Bush.”

  10. This is interesting, especially considering how much money Rep. Fields has/had taken from folks in the payday loan field:

    The chairman of the Financial Institutions Committee, Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee), said he hasn’t seen a need for the rate cap and that the committee is unlikely to pass a cap because of a lack of support from Sheridan and the Senate.

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