First issue in MKE exec race: Pensions | WisCommunity

First issue in MKE exec race: Pensions

The first issue has arisen in the Milwaukee County executive's race, along with the first television commercial aired by any candidate.

Not surprisingly, the first spot is from Chris Abele, who's able to fund a good chunk of his campaign himself.  It introduces him as a civic leader who's helped non-profits and the community, and cites his work on an idea that helped the county save $200-million on its pension obligations by borrowing $400-million.

Pension is a word that gets people's attention in Milwaukee County, which was rocked by a pension scandal in 2002. 

And Lee Holloway, the county board chair and acting county exec who's also running for the job, took exception to Abele's claim, saying he was taking too much credit, and that if the county had taken Abele's advice when he first suggested it, before the stock market tanked, it would have been disastrous for the county.

It's interesting that this is the first issue to pop, because four of the five exec candidates supported the borrowing scheme, as did then-exec Scott Walker.

Abele co-chaired a study group and audit that recommended the plan.  Jeff Stone introduced the bill in the legislature to authorize the borrowing,  Holloway supported it, and Jim Sullivan voted for it.  The only one with no fingerprints on the deal is Ieshuh Griffin.

Who gets more or less credit for it, and the nuances of how it works, are not likely to be decisive factors for the voters.  If it was a good idea, all four get credit.  If it was a bad idea, they're all to blame.

But there's another interesting twist, in that the Journal Sentinel's story, with Holloway's criticisms, was written before Abele's commercial even aired on TV.

Unless Holloway has some crack campaign operation (which has certainly not been in evidence up until now), it seems likely that the newspaper, perhaps having seen Abele's ad or script, sought out the reaction from Holloway.  It's highly doubtful that Holloway initiated the story or sent out a news release.

Is that enterprise, or sandbagging?  Is the JS after Abele for some reason?  Maybe there's another explanation for the story showing up before the commercial, but it's hard to imagine what it might be.



January 25, 2011 - 12:28pm