New District Lines Spark Contentious 10th Assembly District Race
With no Republican candidate on the ticket, four Democrats are vying for the newly shaped state Assembly seat representing Shorewood and parts of Milwaukee.
Three of the four candidates for the new 10th Assembly District focused on central-city issues — primarily the economy and poverty — on Monday night at a forum hosted by the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay, Millie Coby of Shorewood, Ieshuh Griffin of Milwaukee and Harriet Callier of Milwaukee are Democrats vying for the seat held by Rep. Elizabeth Coggs of Milwaukee. Coggs plans to run for her cousin Spencer Coggs’ Senate District 6 seat, and with no Republican on the 10th District ballot, the winner of the Aug. 14 primary earns the seat. Callier did not attend the event at Coffee Makes You Black.
The Republican Party’s new state Legislature’s redistricting maps tilted the political makeup of the North Shore, lumping Shorewood into the 10th District, a predominantly African-American district blanketing a good portion of Milwaukee’s inner city.
And Pasch’s outsider status — both to the city and the 10th District, of which she is not yet a resident — drew attacks from her opponents.
"Assemblywoman Pasch is going to move into the district, but can you relate, can you identify, can you speak the language, do you have the concern?" Griffin asked. "This is necessary."
Pasch — also asked by the moderator if she was carpetbagging — fired back.
"I hope you'd judge me on my record, on the experience that I have, on the passion that I have and the care and concern that I have," she said.
Griffin, who gained notoriety when she attempted to get the phrase "NOT the whiteman's bitch" on the ballot in her campaigns for the Assembly and Milwaukee County Executive, said she’s the only candidate who has real ties to the 10th Assembly District and has a thought-out plan for the district, called "Ieshuh for the People Plan."
"I'm not afraid to stand up and fight for the people," she said. "… Other politicians are scared of me being elected, because I represent that face they have turned down, they didn't give answers (to), they said no (to)."
Coby, who holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said she grew up in the district and added, “I know what it means to struggle. I can relate to the circumstances and issues the persons of the 10th Assembly District are facing.”
Pasch, meanwhile, highlighted her status as a veteran state legislator who now is the assistant Assembly Democratic leader, affording her a seat in the front row of the Assembly chambers.
“It’s the first time in a long time somebody representing Milwaukee is in the front row, providing the opportunity to speak (about) and address the issues that desperately affect Milwaukee, that affect our communities,” she said. “It’s time the rest of the state stops thumbing their nose at us because truly Milwaukee is the economic engine, and it’s time we put some gas in it.”
Economy at the forefront
Griffin said that when there are families making less than minimum wage, not making enough to pay even one bill, and state and local lawmakers doing nothing to address it, that's real poverty. She added poverty, jobs and government accountability are the top issues facing the district.
"We have two Milwaukees," she said. "We have a Milwaukee that on the economic scale is booming ... and then we have the Milwaukee in the inner city.
"You need to have someone elected that understands what's going on in the district," she said.
Coby said she would move to create a think tank to look intelligently at development in the city.
She said she would work to bring contracts to the city, to those living in the city, and bring the perspective that economic development in the city will not only keep dollars in the city but also benefit the state as a whole.
"We need to do this by making sure people have access to money that comes in so we can fund the entrepreneurs, so we can create manufacturing jobs, the family-supporting jobs," she said.
Coby said education has to be the district's top priority because without an education, there's no obtaining gainful employment. She added that creating an atmosphere of entrepreneurship is key.
"We need educational opportunities," she said. "We need monies for education."
Pasch said jobs, the economy, education and fixing a broken health care system are at the top of the list of issues that need tackling. State funding was cut to Milwaukee Area Technical College, a school which she said is vital to training and getting residents ready for work.
"If we want to create jobs, we have to have good education," she said. "You don't cut education and say you're going to grow jobs.”
Pasch reiterated her “fight for Milwaukee” theme.
"We have to fight for Milwaukee," she said. "I'm in the front row now, and I'd like to fight for Milwaukee.