Milwaukee County Executive Race: Somebody Broke The Law:

And two candidates paid for it…but who really broke the law?

The regulars here are probably tired of this story…and this is the last post…I promise (well I reserve the right to change my mind if something new happens). For newcomers and occasional visitors, here’s a synopsis of where we are.

There were six candidates who submitted nomination papers for Milwaukee County Executive. Three of them hired a contractor who used some of the same solicitors to collect signatures. This is against state election laws. So only the earliest signatures are valid. A fourth candidate filed a complaint and after being reviewed by two election commissions and two courts, the two candidates with the latest submissions had the questionable signatures nullified. This caused them to have too few signatures on their papers to be eligible and they were removed from the ballot.

Follow me so far?

Now, two courts agreed with civilian authorities that an election law was broken. But who broke it is my issue.

The two candidates who removed from the ballot? That certainly wasn’t their intention. They certainly were careless in their hiring of the contractor and their oversight of the work done. But when you hire someone to do a job your expectation is they know the rules, regulations, and laws involved. If the contractor runs a business that collects signatures on nomination papers, that contractor should know the rules. If you hire a plumber during the remodel of your bathroom, you expect them to install the plumbing to meet code. It shouldn’t be any different here.

Now, the candidates were careless. They should have asked if the firm was collecting signatures for other candidates running for Milwaukee County Executive. They should have stressed that the solicitors needed to be unique for each candidate. I would have preferred that they move on to another firm. But they didn’t and they didn’t.

Then the other question. All three of these candidates are experienced politicians who have either run their own campaigns previously or have been instrumental in working with others. They didn’t have the necessary volunteers to collect the required 2,000 signatures (or collect enough extras to insure getting on the ballot)?

The media reported that all three candidates hired one firm:

The snafu occurred because Kennedy and Sullivan’s campaigns outsourced the task for gathering signatures, something that is standard practice in bigger campaigns.

Both ended up giving part of the job to community organizer Simon Warren, owner of the Sweet Black Coffee shop and an associate of Jerrel Jones, owner of the Milwaukee Courier and WNOV-AM (860).

Warren then paid the same individuals to go out and collect signatures for the different campaigns. Warren did not return repeated calls. 

So why did all three candidates pick this single firm (There are other firms in Milwaukee that do campaign work for a fee). There are a number of reasons that I can think of but they aren’t important to this story.

But what is Simon Warren’s culpability here? He should know the law. He is the individual who actually took the actions that broke the law. Will there be criminal charges brought against him? I believe there are in fact criminal penalties mentioned in the law [“The Legislature felt that a violation as alleged in the complaints was so egregious that a person violating it is guilty of a Class I felony,” (Michael) Maistelman (attorney for County Board Chair Theo Lipscomb) said. The maximum penalty for such an offense is up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.]. And will the candidates who got bumped from the ballot bring civil suits against Mr. Warren? I think they have good cause to do so.

Last week, I emailed both the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office and the Wisconsin Attorney General for comment but they have not responded.

Somebody broke the law here. I don’t think it was the candidates. So we will wait and see if this goes to court anytime soon.


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1 thought on “Milwaukee County Executive Race: Somebody Broke The Law:

  1. Even if the Sullivan and Kennedy campaigns didn’t break the law (and that’s a big if) they’re guilty of being incredibly lazy. While I appreciate the challenge of gathering signatures to obtain ballot access can be daunting this seems to me to be too important a race to start taking shortcuts.

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