Narrative 1: Race
“Good bye to 1/2 of the black representation in Wisconsin’s [legislature] and the progress of my elders”
The above quote comes from Sen. Lena Taylor’ Facebook page. Race certainly played a prominent role in Milwaukee’s spring primary. Yesterday’s results guarantee that for the next two years the Milwaukee delegation will be less racially diverse than the city’s population as a whole. Two white candidates, Sandy Pasch and Evan Goyke, prevailed in minority majority assembly districts.
Does this matter? There is research out there on political representation (see this study by Melissa J. Marshall for example) showing that Black and Hispanic constituencies have higher government satisfaction levels when represented by Black and Hispanic officials. I also agree with Sen. Taylor that, given our nation’s sordid racial past, the paucity of minorities in the state legislature is troubling. However, both Pasch and Goyke were elected by their constituents. If residents of the 10th and 18th Assembly District have problems with Pasch and Goyke they can vote them out in 2014.
Narrative 2: The Purge
Jason Fields and Peggy Krusick are both veteran Milwaukee politicians, and both lost to challengers from the left. A look at their records show both Fields and Krusick to be reliable Democratic voices, however their willingness to buck party orthodoxy on school choice and voter ID respectively became issues in the primary campaign. If this narrative is correct, expect to see less voting disunity within the Milwaukee caucus.
Narrative 3: The Power Struggle
South side Sen. Chris Larson endorsed Sandy Pasch, Nikiya Harris, Mandela Barnes, and Evan Goyke in Milwaukee primaries. All won. North side Sen. Lena Taylor endorsed Millie Coby, Elizabeth Coggs, and Jason Fields in Milwaukee primaries. All lost. The active participation of Taylor and Larson and the victory of Larson’s preferred candidates suggest he is now the most powerful member of the Milwaukee legislative delegation. No doubt the prospect of Chris Larson being a successor to Gwen Moore in Congress just became more realistic.
Narrative 4: A Message to National School Choice Advocates
The national American Federation for Children was involved in supporting Jason Fields, Millie Colby, Jarrett Fields, Elizabeth Coggs, and Tracy Dent. All five candidates lost after the involvement of the organization itself became a prominent campaign issue. The disconnect between Milwaukee public opinion on school choice and the position of Milwaukee elected officials suggest school choice is not the deciding issue for many voters. Still, the future involvement of national school choice advocates in Milwaukee elections is something to watch.