In The News
Volunteers go to work for Lena Taylor, others
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
The campaign for Milwaukee County Executive launched into full mode in February with one side relying on money and the other on the blood, sweat and tears of volunteers (much of that provided in union support arranged by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council).
Taking advantage of a war-chest gathered over four years, incumbent Scott Walker – barely eight days after the primary -- loaded the local TV news shows with a commercial that insisted he had held the line on property taxes and calling his opponent, State Sen. Lena Taylor, the candidate of “special Madison interests.”
Milwaukeeans knew how laughable that charge was – if they had been paying attention to which “special interests in Madison” had stiffed them.
It was the Assembly Republicans that Walker had once been a part of.
They stripped from the state budget millions of dollars to help Wisconsin’s only first-class city. Walker, who constantly complains that the state should do more and let him create more taxing districts to take him off the hook, didn’t say a word.
In fact, the only rescue came from Taylor. Over in the Senate, as other county officials have conceded with gratitude, she led the charge to save millions to protect county transit
Even today, Taylor has run her campaign while rushing back to Madison to fight for more legislation in the Senate. She hasn’t missed a beat in public appearances. That is not a story the media has picked up on, nor have they noticed how even neutral pollsters show her closing the gap to within a few percentage points against a much better known and more deeply funded incumbent.
The last time the media missed this badly five weeks before an election in Wisconsin was with a fellow named Obama.
Real discussion about the race is now spreading out from the Internet and community forums. Walker has had few answers when Taylor challenged his attitude on taxes and how he has denied residents voice and choice – even the opportunity to talk about other funding options.
Taylor’s ads are arriving but, supporters say, she will still be outgunned in sheer media money by Walker. Her recourse is her experience, the widespread unhappiness with Walker and her lively personality on the stump – plus those volunteers getting out the message.
Taylor knew this would be an uphill battle when she got into the race – late – last fall.
In interviews she points out that she was born, raised and went to high school, church and community activities in Milwaukee and still lives on the same block she grew up on. She’s the one candidate who actually graduated college and returned to Milwaukee to start her own law and real estate practice here. Her first forays into politics – wins in the Assembly and Senate – have led to opportunities to demonstrate her ability with finance and social safety nets.
What got her belatedly into the race was the urging of Milwaukee constituents and “the mismanagement, the lack of leadership” of Walker and his choices, she says at almost every appearance. The failure of the parks, the courts, the mental health center, and the busses would make many give up, but she is undaunted, she said.
It is the year for people power, she noted – and not a bad year at all to be a noted active Democrat.
People are ready for change –“they definitely are,” she said – but “they want someone who is going to think out of the box, to bring the solutions.”
Given the winds of change roaring through the country – all of which will give Taylor a larger voice than Walker ever knew, or knew how to use -- she noted: “I intend to make sure Milwaukee County is appreciated.”
The Milwaukee Area Labor Council will be doing member-to-member phone banks and door knocks for Taylor and all its endorsed candidates, including incumbent Justice Louis Butler for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Labor council leaders interviewed have emphasized that the rules require phone calls and neighborhood visits only to union households.
The schedule is being set up by AFL-CI coordinator Steve Kwaterski at (414) 719-5190, and MALC Vice-President Annie Wacker at (414) 510-8724. Locals can “adopt a night” or members can sign up for shifts.
Other candidates labor has endorsed and will be working to help April 1 include (for the County Board) Christopher Larson in District 14 and Jan Balistrieri in District 9; and (for the Milwaukee Common Council) Patrick Flaherty in the only open seat (District 3) and incumbents Robert Baumann in District 4, Jim Bohl in District 5, Willie Wade in District 7, Michael Murphy in District 10, Joe Dudzik in District 11, Terry Witkowski in District 13, and T. Anthony Zielinski in District 14.
More endorsements for April 1 could be added in the first week of March.
The labor walks and phone calls originate at MALC headquarters at 633 S. Hawley Road, Suite 110, Milwaukee, WI 53214. Scheduled so far:
Monday - March 3rd. Phone Bank - 4pm - 8pm
Tuesday - March 4th. Phone Bank - 4pm - 8pm, Doors - 10am - 2pm
Wednesday - March 5th, Phone Bank - 4pm - 8pm
Thursday - March 6th, Phone Bank - 4pm - 8pm, Doors - 10am - 2pm
Saturday - March 8th, Phone Bank - 10am - 5pm, Doors - 10am - 5pm
Sunday - March 9th, Phone Bank - 1pm - 8pm, Doors - 1pm - 6pm