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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Can Gary George Save Sheriff David Clarke?

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Posted at Right Wisconsin

Last week, a colleague asked me to speculate on whether Gary George has a chance to beat Congresswoman Gwen Moore in next month’s Democratic primary? The short answer is no, but there might be a more intriguing question: could he save Sheriff David Clarke?
But let’s address the Gary George question first.
Gary George is frequently described as one of the wiliest, most powerful, most effective members of the state legislature. He was by far the city’s most influential African American politician. (Moore now is the city’s most visible Black official.)  But, as that divorce lawyer ad says, to really understand Gary George you just had to be there.
In his later years in office, the once-powerful George seemed to succumb to a combination of hubris and distraction. He became sloppy, disconnected, and surprisingly easy prey for the recall election that ousted him before he was taken down on corruption charges.
Even now, there is no discernible groundswell for his sudden return to politics and it’s not easy to identify the core constituency who could put him over the top. But he is at least going through the motions of running a campaign including this web ad, which is actually pretty good.
The problem is that almost no one will see it, and it’s unlikely to make much of a dent in Moore’s core of reliable supporters.
A more intriguing question is whether George’s entry in the primary will affect the turnout and the composition of the Democratic primary electorate.  And that brings us to the political problem facing Milwaukee’s conservative African-American Sheriff David Clarke.
Not to put too fine a point on it: local Democrats loath and despise Clarke, with the red hot disdain that liberals reserve for black conservatives. Other than Scott Walker, Clarke’s head is the one that the Dems would most like to mount on a stick this year.  And since Clarke has made noises about running for mayor against Tom Barrett in 2016, the mayor’s political apparatus has an extra incentive to try to end his political career on August 12. 


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