For Hispanics on Milwaukee's south side, Tuesday was fraught with high expectations. In the 12th Aldermanic District, Jose Perez unseated incumbent Alderman Jim Witkowiak in what turned out to be a close and contentious race. Tensions arose, however, when Perez' campaign manager Sanchin Chheda accused Witkowiak volunteers of illegally posting yard signs on public property. He also smeared a Witkowiak volunteer Natalia Santamaria for a felony in her past, but has since apologized to Santamaria for what he had called a "cheap shot."
Campaign strategist Juan Carlos Ruiz had allegedly joined the fray warning Santamaria if she didn't terminate the "discussion," he would go public with her checkered past. It is not clear what discussion Ruiz wanted to terminate, but Santamaria understood the threat as blackmail. Ruiz is a community organizer with close ties to Voces de la Frontera. He also played a key role in the Latino Redistricting Committee this spring during Milwaukee's redistricting process (unfortunately, they were unable to pass their proposed map).
Witkowiak's camp alleged Perez had centered their campaign around race. Chheda accused Witkowiak of using white consultants for his campaign, yet denied they had initiated an ethnic brawl on Facebook. Witkowiak lost to Perez by 86 votes (3%) and is carefully considering whether a recount is in the public's best interest.
Benjamin Juarez lost to incumbent Bob Donovan in the 8th Aldermanic District by 508 votes (21%). Juarez reigned in endorsements from the who's who of liberal circles such Equality Wisconsin (Gay Rights Group), Voces de la Frontera, State Senator Chris Larson, Jennifer Morales, American Federation of Teachers, and the Shepherd Express. However, it wasn't enough to muster an extra 509 votes needed to clinch a win.
In the Milwaukee County, Sylvia Ortiz lost to Incumbent Peggy Romo West in the 12th County District by 276 votes (13%). Ortiz campaigned hard against West criticizing her for using County resources to aid her reelection. Ortiz was also critical of West for her role in the County's redistricting process claiming that her support in resizing Latino districts was intended only to protect her incumbency.
An open records request recently revealed that West was unsure how to answer redistricting inquiries made by El Conquistador involving her own district and often leaned on Harold Mester - a public relations staffer for the County - for advice and proofreading. Mester also proofread Dimitrijevic's responses to El Conquistador and at one point quipped that El Conquistador was a minor league news outfit.
In the 4th County District, real estate developer Bill Buresh lost to incumbent Marina Dimitrijevic. Although Buresh outspent Dimitrijevic three-to-one, Dimitrijevic pulled out a clear victory by 1,479 votes (33%). This is welcoming news for Dimitrijevic as it will not hinder her longer term objective of becoming the County Board's next Chairperson. We wish her luck in her endeavor.
And finally, Deanna Alexander beat Tracey Corder in the 18th County District by 489 votes (10%). Although Alexander won in a non-Hispanic district, we're giving her a shout out for running a clean campaign without the financial backing of special interest groups. Alexander is expected to be a wildcard on the County Board; but one thing is for certain, Supervisor Dimitrijevic can kiss Alexander's vote for her Board Chairmanship good bye. It's nothing personal, but that's what happens when you endorse the other guy.