Non-campaign for MKE Co exec | WisCommunity

Non-campaign for MKE Co exec

This may give some campaign managers heartburn, but needs to be said.

The primary election for Milwaukee County executive is five weeks from today, but the campaign for the office seems to be non-existent, or at least invisible.

None of the four major candidates has bought any television or radio time.

Our household, which votes in every election and is on every imaginable list, hasn't received a single piece of mail. We haven't even gotten an autocall.

No one has canvassed our neighborhood, dropped lilterature at our door, or called us to ask who we're supporting.

We haven't even been asked for money.

The only contact we've had from any candidate was a series of four emails from Jim Sullivan, asking our help in circulating nomination papers and inviting us to a fundraiser.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that any of the candidates is making any news, either -- no news conferences, press releases, issue papers. Nothing.

There was a flicker of activity in the media today, with Bruce Murphy of Milwaukee Magazine trying to handicap the race and Dan Bice at the newpaper saying Chris Abele has been polling and may work for free if he's elected.

Yes, it's true that the election was just officially called two weeks ago, when Scott Walker resigned, and candidates have had to circulate nomination papers and get their campaigns together.

But they've all known since November 2, more than two months ago, when this campaign would be starting. So far, this whole race is a non-starter.

Having run four races for Milwaukee mayor and even one for county exec in 2004, i can assure you this is highly unusual.

In 2004, David Riemer announced in late October and by now had been making news, was running radio commercials, had volunteers dropping lit every weekend, was getting ready to debate Walker in front of the Downtown Rotary on Jan. 20, and in general was running a full-fledged if underfunded campaign. He didn't win, but he got to 43%, a vast improvement from where he started.

The campaigns of Sullivan, Lee Holloway, and Jeff Stone may not be able to be on TV until the last couple of weeks, and are no doubt spending a lot of time trying to raise enough money to do that. But you can do that without being invisible.

Abele, reportedly wiling to spend a million dollars or more, is mostly unknown to the voters, but no one except Holloway is what anyone would call a household word (and in his case that word's not necessarily positive.)

You can buy name recognition and persuade voters on TV in a pretty short time, if they are in a receptive mood (see Ron Johnson's campagn.) But you can't do it overnight. Johnson went on TV at the end of May, five months before the election. Herb Kohl did the same when he ran. In his last two campaigns, John Norquist went on TV right after New Year's when he filed his petitions and stayed on until April.

Every day that passes without Abele on TV lessens his money advantage and gives the other candidates a break. But none of them seem to be doing anything to take advantage of the opportunity.

Let the campaign begin. What is everyone waiting for?

UPDATE:  A fifth candidate, Ieshuh Griffin, filed before the deadline today.  She is a non-contender.  A flock of others had "announced" they were running, but didn't get around to collecting signatures and filing to get on the ballot.




January 11, 2011 - 4:38pm