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Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010

Exclusive: Lee Holloway Will Run for Milwaukee County Executive

Walker’s officially out the door and candidates step in

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Milwaukee County Executive and Milwaukee County Board Chair Lee Holloway will run for county executive, he told the Shepherd just hours before he was officially sworn in as county executive on Tuesday.

“Am I going to run for county executive?” Holloway said. “Yes, I am.”

In the meantime, Holloway, as county board chair, assumes the position as county executive and board chair for up to 30 days. He said he would appoint an interim county executive, who will serve until a new county executive is elected on April 5, 2011. Holloway said he will remain on the board of supervisors and will only have to give up his seat on the board if he is elected as county executive during the general election in April.

Holloway would also have to step down if he appoints himself as interim county executive during that approximately 10-week period until the April 5 election. But he indicated on Tuesday that he would appoint someone else for that position.

Holloway has served on the board of supervisors for 18 years, eight of them as board chair. He said he worked with Gov.-elect Scott Walker to keep property taxes low while “keeping a lid” on Walker’s worst policy proposals; temporarily saved Midwest Express; helped to rescue the Milwaukee Public Museum from financial ruin; supported the county’s suit against Mercer, which resulted in a $45 million settlement; and fought for dedicated funding for the cash-strapped Milwaukee County Transit System. He said he would also extend a hand to the unions to resolve their differences.

“I think I’m the best-qualified person who’s running,” Holloway said. “I have far more managerial experience than any of the other potential candidates and I have as much education or more education than most of them.”

Although political watchers have speculated that leading candidates would have to raise as much as $1 million to mount a three-month campaign, Holloway said money wasn’t a factor for him.

“It’s not going to cost me much because I don’t have much,” Holloway said.

Speculation Turns to Reality

Holloway’s announcement ends months of speculation about his—and others’—intentions for the county’s top job. Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic told the Shepherd she would not run for county executive.

Although nine potential candidates have filed papers with the Milwaukee County Election Commission as of Tuesday morning, other strong contenders were still undecided Tuesday, before Holloway’s intentions were made clear.

Whoever wins in April will serve out the remainder of Walker’s term, just one year, until an election for a four-year term is held in spring 2012.

Three visible candidates—state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), Chris Abele of the Argosy Foundation and outgoing state Sen. Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa)—have filed papers with the election commission or announced their candidacy.

Stone, who is fairly moderate when compared to today’s Republican Party, has sometimes drawn the ire of hard-line conservatives. Nevertheless, he will likely have their support during his run for county executive. As a state representative, Stone pushed to privatize Mitchell International Airport and has made alleged voter fraud—never proven during independent investigations to be a widespread phenomenon—a key issue.

Abele—the son of billionaire John Abele, a co-founder of Boston Scientific Corp.—is new to politics but has donated to Democratic candidates and philanthropic causes. He has said he would put more than $1 million of his own money into the race.

Abele seems to have the support of Republican businessman Sheldon Lubar, who is pushing to “blow up” county government—a pet cause of conservatives, but no one else.

(Full disclosure: The Shepherd Express and the nonprofit corporation that the Shepherd had created are suing Abele, Milwaukee Film Inc. and two of its employees for misappropriation of confidential information, misappropriation of good will, unjust enrichment, computer crimes, theft and damages arising from conspiracy to injure business. For a complete copy of the complaint filed in the Milwaukee County courts, go to www.milwaukeefilmfest.info.)

Sullivan made his announcement on Tuesday, saying in a statement, “We need strong leadership in the County Executive office to help right the ship, and that’s exactly why I’m running.”

Sullivan, an attorney who was a Naval Reservist, served in the state Senate for one term. He lost his re-election to conservative Republican Leah Vukmir in November in the Republican Party sweep.

Other candidates that have filed with the county are: Edward Anhalt, Renae Carlson, Ieshuh Griffin, Ken Kraucunas, Matthew Pietz, John Pokrandt and Don Wadewitz.

As of Tuesday, other contenders were still undecided. Supervisor Johnny Thomas said he would wait until later this week before making an announcement. Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts Joe Czarnezki said on Monday that he was still undecided. Milwaukee County Treasurer Dan Diliberti did not return a call seeking comment for this article.

Two county supervisors have also left the board to serve in Madison. Elizabeth Coggs will represent the 10th Assembly District in the state Legislature; Eyon Biddle, Priscilla Elizabeth Coggs-Jones, Ieshuh Griffin, Cavalier Johnson and David D. King have filed papers to fill the District 10 supervisory seat.

Chris Larson won election to serve in the state Senate; Gregory Dickenson and Jason Haas have filed their declarations of candidacy for his supervisory seat.