At the request of a reader who wanted to read more about the Oak Creek mayoral race, I thought I’d take a few minutes to break down the race and talk about the candidates. Three candidates are running for mayor in Oak Creek – incumbent mayor Dick Bolender and aldermen Dimity Grabowski and Mark Verhalen. Grabowski has been an alderman (woman) since 2003, and Verhalen has been an alderman since 2007. Bolender served one year as an alderman before being elected mayor in 2003, and he won reelection as mayor in 2006, defeating Verhalen. In 2006, Grabowski was the Republican challenger to state Sen. Jeff Plale, ultimately going down in defeat to the incumbent.
Ordinarily, I’d say it’s a safe bet to go with the incumbent to win, but in the case of the Oak Creek mayoral race, Dick Bolender has some baggage that might come back to bite him come election time, most notably his very public flip-flop on the issue of the proposed Drexel interchange. As Greg Kowalski over at Metro Milwaukee Today noted,on January 19th, Bolender supported compromise legislation with Mark Verhalen that would have paved the way for Oak Creek to contribute 25% towards the total cost of the proposed Drexel interchange at I-94. Conspicuously, Dimity Grabowski was not involved in the compromise.
On January 20th, the Oak Creek Common Council approved the 25% funding by a vote of 4-2. Grabowski and Verhalen both voted YES to the funding, believing it to be a compromise as originally stated, but on January 22nd, Mayor Bolender announced he planned on vetoing the resolution, stating, “taxpayers can’t afford it.” Other than a few bloggers, I don’t know that anyone has called Mayor Bolender out on his flip-flop, but I’d be curious to hear his explanation for the sudden change of heart.
If I had to predict this race right now, I’d say Verhalen and Bolender come out of the primary, setting up a rematch of 2006, and unless Verhalen and his supporters start hammering Bolender on his flip-flop, I see Bolender winning reelection.
Edit: I just want to note I’ve emailed Mayor Bolender to see if he has any explanation for his flip-flop. If/when I hear back from him, I’ll update those of you reading.