MILWAUKEE – With a little over a week before the Feb. 16 primary elections, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has a message for voters: It’s time to sack the status quo in Wisconsin’s largest city.
“Your vote sends a message that the status quo isn’t working. Feb. 16, you get to decide the direction we’re moving in,” the sheriff says in a series of radio spots hitting Milwaukee’s airwaves Monday.
While the conservative Clarke, a thorn in the side of Milwaukee’s left-wing establishment, doesn’t name names, it’s clear just who the issue ads are targeting: Mayor Tom Barrett and his Democrat machine.
Clarke, who has served as sheriff for the past 13 years and battled Barrett on a range of policy issues for most of that time, asks Milwaukee voters a version of the question Ronald Reagan asked then-President Jimmy Carter in 1980:
“Are you better off living in Milwaukee than you were four, eight, 12 years ago? We’ve had the same city government in place,” the sheriff says in one of the ads paid for by Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance, led by conservative political operative Craig Peterson.
The top two vote-getters move on to the April general election.
Barrett presides over one of the most dangerous cities in America, a city that counted nearly 150 homicides in 2015. Milwaukee last year was ranked as the worst city for black Americans, according to an analysis by 24/7 Wall St. The unemployment rate for blacks at the time of the ranking was 17.2 percent.
“I see first-hand how the increase in poverty and joblessness affects the population of our county jail,” Clarke said in one of the ads. “The lack of jobs and the hopelessness it creates can disrupt families and lead to desperation.”
Barrett sees a lot of positives in the city he has led since 2004, and says he intends to deliver a message of “optimism and hope” during his “state of the city” address Monday morning.
“My priorities have been, and will continue to be, getting up every day and doing everything I can on the fronts of job creation — creating more family-supporting jobs — and making this a safe city in every single neighborhood,” Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month. “We’ve had some successes, and we’ve had some challenges in both areas.”
More than anything in the issue ads, Clarke, who has built a national reputation for no-nonsense conservative values, calls on Milwaukee voters to cast their ballots for elected officials who support “self-sufficiency.”
“You control your own destiny. It’s called self-governance, and if you don’t vote, don’t complain. You can decide how you want the government to act,” the sheriff says.