Abele-backed group spends nearly $80K to support board chair Lipscomb’s challenger

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Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

GLENDALE -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has a new strategy to flip the County Board of Supervisors in his favor: Take out his top adversary, chairman Theo Lipscomb, in the April 3 election.

Leadership MKE, a group funded by Abele, has spent $79,430 in the North Shore suburbs to support Lipscomb's opponent, Casey Shorts. A willingness to work with Abele is one of the main disagreements in the contest, one of four county Board of Supervisors races that Leadership MKE has invested a total of more than $300,000.

Lipscomb said the outside money would make Shorts a "rubber stamp" for Abele's agenda. Shorts said the constant fighting between the board and Abele was the reason he got into the race.

Theo Lipscomb

Both candidates were pounding the pavement in District 1 on Sunday, with little more than three weeks before Election Day. Lipscomb said Leadership MKE had distributed several mailers to voters criticizing him as having "failed us" while promoting Shorts as "a fresh start."

Theo Lipscomb

Lipscomb said he was proud for opposing some of Abele's top priorities, which include doubling the county's wheel tax to $60 per vehicle.

"(Voters) do know the kinds of things that Abele has proposed, and they know I've fought back against those," Lipscomb said.

Shorts said the policy disagreements between Abele and Lipscomb in the recent budget debate amounted to "one extreme or another." He said he could do better than Lipscomb, who has been board chairman since 2015.

Casey Shorts

"I didn't like what I've seen out of the County Board -- a lot of infighting. A lot of fighting with the county exec," said Shorts.

Casey Shorts

Shorts said he, too, would've voted against Abele's plan to double the wheel tax, but said Lipscomb and the board were wrong to impose across-the-board cuts in the current budget. Shorts couldn't say which specific programs he would rather see cut.

"There's gotta be no sacred cows out there," Shorts said.

Shorts said he would oppose an Abele plan to install parking meters in county parks, calling such an idea "awful." Lipscomb has also voiced opposition to a paid parking program, though the budget approved by the board last November didn't eliminate the possibility of one.

Leadership MKE has has spent $302,264 in four county board races, State of Wisconsin campaign finance reports indicate. County Supervisor Steve Taylor is the top target in District 9, with $90,872 spent against him in support of challenger Patti Logsdon.

The group has spent $79,615 in District 8, where incumbent Supervisor David Sartori finished last in a three-way primary. Leadership MKE is supporting James Davies in the race against Steven Shea, who has the backing of the Wisconsin Working Families Party.


Lipscomb questioned whether Shorts would vote against Abele's priorities if he's elected.

"Most people interpret (the political support) as, that he won't stand up to him," Lipscomb said.

Shorts, a former aide to Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, said he did not seek the support from the Abele-funded group.

"Nobody recruited me. Nobody came out and sought after me. It was a decision that I made," said Shorts.