Op Ed: Political leaders concerned about efforts to divide the black community
A joint Op Ed by County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde and State Representative David Bowen in response to comments made within local media about the County Executives race.
If you have been paying attention to local media over the last three weeks you’ve heard a consistent theme play out: Chris Abele’s new campaign strategy is to drive a wedge in the black community in order to score a win on April 5th.
There have been some incendiary comments made in reference to black elected officials who have chosen to support Senator Chris Larson for Milwaukee County Executive. Election season is known to bring out a cast of characters who pull a range of political stunts to advance their agendas but there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to politics in the Black community. These lines are very hard to come back from after the polls close, and at the end of the day we have too much work to do to allow our community to be irreparably divided.
There is a false and disrespectful narrative being pushed by certain media outlets that anyone supporting Larson, especially Black elected officials are somehow beholden to an omnipotent, all-powerful, progressive white man. That black electeds who have fought for and won real legislation to advance the black community have somehow traded their independent thought and political capacity to support Senator Larson. This is both disrespectful and insulting. It plays into a white supremacist idea that black elected officials cannot make strategic decisions to support candidates or policies that are in the best interest of those they represent. If Black folks supporting Abele buy into this disgusting narrative then they must apply it to themselves as well. Let’s be clear, only one of these men running is the son of a billionaire who opposed a living wage for county workers. The other is a State Senator from a working class background who continues to fight for Milwaukee in a very contentious Republican controlled state legislature. These are the facts. Any other assessment of their ability to lead and our decision to support them must also be based in fact. Many of the Black folks supporting Abele including the press promoting this rhetoric are benefitting financially from him. Either from grants, radio ads, or consulting contracts, those attacking us for supporting Larson are not standing on facts.
Chris Abele has shown himself to be unwilling to be accountable by failing to engage the public in hearings accessible to our community and has rarely appeared on community talk radio until election season. Larson has been an accessible leader who works to build coalitions that are accountable to the people. Those who endorse Abele have yet to point out which of his policies they support. Is it his treks back and forth to Madison to lobby his Republican friends to give him more power over the elected county board that serves our community? Is it his veto of the living wage ordinance seeking to deny many in our community a pathway out of poverty? Or maybe they appreciated his “boldness” when he conspired with Republicans to take over and close our MPS schools? No, instead the focus has been placed on a heated exchange his opponent had with a Senate colleague, words he as since reached out and apologized for, while failing to hold Abele accountable for actions taken against Black county workers.
We call on the black voters to use their own discernment and not be caught up in the low level antics of the political season. Do we want an executive who publicly disrespects our community and an entire legislative branch of government by excluding them from the process? Or do we change course and elect an executive that is willing to partner with local elected officials, work with the legislative branch and actually adheres to the process of governing? We must change course NOW. We cannot afford another 4 years of Abele.
State Representative David Bowen (D-10)
Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde (District 10)
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