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Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012

Five Democrats Vie for Open Senate Seat

Forum reveals their plans for first 90 days in office

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Wisconsinites tend to have long-term relationships with their elected officials.

So when an incumbent leaves office and a seat opens up, candidates jump at the opportunity.

In Milwaukee, longtime Sen. Spencer Coggs left the Senate and was elected city treasurer.

Vying to replace him in the Sixth Senate District are five Democrats: state Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, Milwaukee County Supervisor Nikiya Harris, Milwaukee County Supervisor Michael Mayo, counselor Allyn Monroe Swan and businessman Delta Triplett.

There are no Republican or independent candidates for this seat, so the winner of the Aug. 14 Democratic primary will become the next senator.

The candidates debated last Wednesday at Coffee Makes You Black in a forum sponsored by the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network and moderated by Eric Von of 1290 WMCS.

The debate occurred hours after Coggs had called for a “clean campaign pledge” and days before she said in a different forum that voters should support a candidate who “looks like them”—a reference to the 10th Assembly District race, in which white candidate state Rep. Sandy Pasch is facing three African-American candidates—Harriet Callier, Millie Coby and Ieshuh Griffin—in a district where African Americans make up the majority of constituents.

On Monday, Harris blasted Coggs' comments, calling them “race-baiting at its worst.”

Coggs made no mention of the Assembly race last Wednesday. But she had boxing gloves slung over her shoulder, apparently indicating her willingness to fight, and she and her supporters had sharp words for moderator Von after he'd told Coggs that she had taken more time than allotted to respond to a question.

The candidates explained what they'd focus on during their first 90 days in office.

Elizabeth Coggs

After a long career as a Milwaukee County supervisor, Coggs was elected to represent the 10th Assembly District in November 2010. During her time in the state Legislature, Coggs served as the co-chair of the bipartisan Task Force on Minority Unemployment.

“One of the things I will be working on immediately is to re-establish and put back on the table several different things,” Coggs said. “Last year I introduced legislation to bring $1 million back to Milwaukee County for jobs. I will also introduce a bill to bring back the half-cent sales tax that you all voted on several years ago that will go to county transit, county parks and to emergency medical services. I will push that legislation as a state senator because we need a regional transit authority in Milwaukee County. We need to be able to get people to the jobs and the job corridors [that] are not in the county. I will also work not only for jobs, but to mitigate the circumstances of Act 10.”

To learn more about Elizabeth Coggs, go to Elizabeth M. Coggs on Facebook.

Nikiya Harris

Prior to being elected to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in 2010, Nikiya Harris worked in development for the Urban Ecology Center and earned a master's degree in adult education from UW-Milwaukee.

“I would certainly focus my attention on increasing the minimum wage,” Harris said. “I think in our community many members are struggling day to day, just on how to pay their bills, how to pay their rent, how to put food on their tables. We have a lot of members of our community, particularly our aging [population], that are making the decision on whether to pay a bill or to buy prescription pills, medication. So I would definitely fight to make sure that we fully fund Family Care so that the members of our community can age in their homes and we can make sure our disabled can stay in their homes as well. We need to fund public transportation. We do need a dedicated funding source. However, I think it might be easier to restore the $7 million that was cut in the first place.”

To learn more about Nikiya Harris, go to Nikiya Harris for Wisconsin State Senate on Facebook.

Michael Mayo

Michael Mayo has served as a Milwaukee County supervisor since 1994; he is currently the chair of the Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee.

“Transportation,” Mayo said of his top priority. “You've got to get people to jobs. Second, take the arbitrary cap off of seniors' health care and [care for the] disabled to make sure that we have health care in our community.” Mayo said he'd like to help small businesses get funding and to address redevelopment of brownfields with city, county, state and federal dollars. “There is opportunity for remediation. But the No. 1 thing is to talk about jobs, talk about transportation, and help seniors and the disabled and people move forward with health care.”

Allyn Monroe Swan

Allyn Monroe Swan is a spiritual care coordinator at Heartland Hospice and has served in various capacities as a counselor, pastor and community volunteer.

“In the first 90 days, I would be familiarizing and assessing the committees and committee chairs that are working on the issues that will help this community as far as job development, health care and the things that are of concern that will benefit this district,” Swan said. “Although in Madison it's a matter of making laws, it's also a matter of enforcing laws to be equitable in the community. The problem is there are a lot of laws where we don't have fair distribution of the resources that are already provided and there is no money there to actually enforce it in this community.”

To learn more about Allyn Monroe Swan, go to www.swan4wi.com.

Delta Triplett

Delta Triplett is the president of The Ten Group, the only diversity recruitment and consulting firm in the state.

“In my first 90 days, I would sit down with my newly elected state representatives that I've got on my team,” Triplett said. “I'm going to meet with the 16th, 17th and 18th District state representatives first because we need to make sure that we are on the same page when we go to Madison. That's one of the problems—that we're so divided. We need to focus on being a team and make sure that we have a common cause. So my focus is going to be on the city first. We're going to set an agenda and we're going to take it to the people that we represent. I can't tell you [what it is]. If it were me I would say, absolutely jobs are No. 1. How do we get that happening right now? Maybe there are things already on the table—if that's what we can do, that's what we'll push through. Number two is education. Our children are critically important.”

To learn more about Delta Triplett, go to www.deltatriplettforsenator.com