In The News
Abele runs strong while opponent is frozen in his Walker
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted March 17, 2011
The crisper Chris Abele, who seems to have gained a directness of words from the rigors of campaigning, was on view at the South Shore Forum on Economic Development March 16, when he was asked from the audience to name several ways he differed from Scott Walker.
“First, I believe in collective bargaining for all workers,” Abele said forcefully – and the South Side crowd jumped with thunderous applause, to the chagrin of the waiting Jeff Stone, also at the forum.
Abele explained how he knew “from personal experience as a manager” the truth that cooperation in bargaining was better. He recalled when he was on the Milwaukee Symphony board years ago during a major economic crisis. The organization got through and emerged stronger because many savings along with good ideas came from the musicians – and Abele and the board made sure they were given credit for the solutions. This was across the bargaining table because the musicians are a hard-nosed American Federation of Musicians local.
In a forum devoted to airport, roads, trains, busses and water and parks quality, Abele also detailed other differences in approach. As county executive, Scott Walker once sought to privatize the airport. As governor he is cutting bus and local transit 10%, relying on support from Stone and other Assembly Republicans. “Our view of how to build the economic engine is quite different,” Abele told the crowd.
In Stone’s placid responses, neither openly agreeing or disagreeing with Walker’s tactics, the attendees saw firsthand how devoted cleavage to Scott Walker has the Greenfield Republican spinning like a top as he tries to keep from slinging mud while screwing himself into the ground in the race for county executive.
Chris Abele's empathy with the working class and closeness to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as a future partner have righted and stabilized his campaign, allowing a political novice to plant his feet on the ground and use his considerable intellect, money and knowledge to focus more on how to govern. He does not need to embarrass the opposition -- especially since Rep. Stone is doing that for him.
Since he can’t divorce the gov, Stone keeps trying for a trial separation, and gets miffed when the voters won’t have it.
Abele is now letting circumstances, even more than commercials, clarify how this has become a contest between the newcomer who thinks and learns and the politician who dodges and fulminates, trying to both stand by his governor and escape from him. Last Christmastime, making the rounds of labor holiday parities, an affable if evasive Stone kept praising his brand-new governor and rebuking those who pointed out his followship, not fellowship, by saying, “Scott Walker is not on the ballot.”
Well, he sure is now. Stone put him there, even more than Abele’s pointed ads about Stone’s followship, even more than Walker’s shaky and now costly tenure as the county exec. Because that sure was Stone standing with Walker at the gubernatorial press conference. That was Stone taking the dead-of-night votes against workers and facing the camera on Walker’s podium when the National Guard was invoked in case of labor unrest.
He has banked on Walker's radio buddies more than ads to push his campaign. Now he complains when Abele points out the obvious, that faithful sycophant Stone is culpable in Walker's excessive power grab, obeisance to the Kochs of the walk, and crass schemes to pretend it was all about the budget and then dropping the budget thing and going after basic bargaining rights.
Stone had a central role on the center stage - and everyone in Milwaukee saw it. In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, he indicated - get this - that he was against taking bargaining rights away from public workers before he was for it. But he was for it loudly and often in legislative votes.
Called on the flip-flop by conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, he backed away. Pounded for his view by Abele in a TV ad, he snapped that was unfair.
Stone looks like an escapee from "The Exorcist," twisting and spitting while Abele has remained calm and growing. It was Abele who went to Madison and stood by public nurses. It was Abele who sent Walker a letter asking him to back off his attack on bargaining rights. It was Abele who backed bipartisan thoughtfulness on the future of mental health facilities and O'Donnell Park. And when he offered consolidation of services with other municipalities, all Stone could sneer was that wouldn't save enough.
Abele at the South Shore forum simply reminded voters that in these hard economic times, “We shouldn’t be turning our backs on any savings.”
What seems most to have peeved Stone, who has regularly invoked Walker's legend, is how Madison is proving an extension of Walker's Milwaukee tactics that rather than helping the county is presenting it with expensive consequences.
It is not only smart politics but simple fairness to remind voters that Stone is "following in the footsteps of Scott Walker."
Said Abele, "Our number one priority in Milwaukee County must be creating more good-paying jobs. As we make the tough decisions to get our economy moving again, working men and women must have fair, open and honest bargaining rights, as well as protections against poor working conditions and unfair treatment. We can take on difficult budget and economic problems by coming together to find common ground and agreement, and working men and women can be part of the solution - if they are allowed."
Abele has won the endorsements of Milwaukee labor. He would coordinate with Barrett on Park East development, and is already using much of Barrett's recent campaign staff to reach out to Milwaukee voters (probably well aware that Barrett drew 62% of the countywide vote in the contest for governor).
The rap on Abele was that he came from money (while funding many progressive causes), had never run for public office (just run a big foundation), overstated county waste in the primary (as did all the candidates) but mainly still expresses a willingness to work with all sides and not throw daggers. Quite simply, that sure sounds better to voters than someone who says he’ll talk to all sides and then doesn’t. That is Walker, and no wonder no one can believe the Stone-clone words.