Milwaukee County Sheriff's Race Heats Up With Attack Ads

Aug 6, 2014


Incumbent Sheriff David Clarke faces a challenge from Milwaukee Police Lt. Chris Moews on Aug. 12

With only a few days left before the August 12 primary, special interests are pouring money into the race for Milwaukee County Sheriff. 

Incumbent Sheriff David Clarke faces Milwaukee Police Lt. Chris Moews.

The two faced each other in 2010, with Clarke winning handily. But, this time around, the race is drawing a lot more attention and heat.

Ads have been peppering the airwaves, in the race for Milwaukee County Sheriff. The liberal-leaning Greater Wisconsin Committee launched one in recent days, attacking Sheriff David Clarke for comments he made in 2013.

The group is spending a quarter million dollars to run the ad on Milwaukee TV stations. Its donors are anonymous. Meanwhile, the immigration rights group Voces de la Frontera, held a rally outside Milwaukee City Hall in support of Clarke’s opponent, Police Lt. Chris Moews.

Among the parties going to bat for Clarke, are the conservative-leaning National Rifle Association – it’s sent out mailings - and conservative talk radio. WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes recently implored Republican listeners to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary for Clarke.

“The reality is, if conservative Republicans do not cross over and vote for Sheriff Clarke in the Democratic primary, I don’t think he’ll be re-elected. He will lose,” Sykes says.

While Clarke takes conservative positions, he’s run as a Democrat in every Sheriff’s race since 2002. He has understood the political reality here, according to Mordecai Lee, professor of governmental affairs at UW-Milwaukee.

“If you want to win elections in Milwaukee County, you’re better off being a Democrat,” Lee says.

Lee thinks the primary for Sheriff will be one of the top draws for voters in Milwaukee County on Aug. 12. He says that’s because many have strong opinions about the incumbent’s public image.

“He knows how to get attention, he knows how to say startling things and he expresses opinions that do not necessarily have anything to do with his legal responsibilities as sheriff of Milwaukee County,” Lee says.

Those duties have included overseeing prisoners in the county jail and patrolling freeways and parks. Lee says turnout on Tuesday is expected to be low, and low turnout tends to skew Republican. The political interest group now running ads, hopes they upset the trend.