Race is quickly becoming a central issue to the 10th Assembly District election, highlighted most recently by state Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, who urged citizens to "vote for someone that looks like you," at a candidate forum Saturday.
One of four candidates vying for the seat — Rep. Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay, the only white candidate in the race— said she felt Coggs' comment was aimed at her, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Pasch said that to suggest someone should vote based on skin color is poor advice, according to the report.
Approached by a Journal Sentinel reporter following the forum at St. Matthew CME Church, Coggs said she was not telling voters not to support Pasch because of her skin color but declined to elaborate further.
Coggs came out Monday with a statement saying her comments were not aimed at any one person or district, but rather was meant as a reminder to the community "about the struggle those who came before us to get the representation levels we currently have and how important it is for us never to forget that.
"Ultimately, the voters will decide who they choose to represent them, my hope is that no representation is lost for our community and the best people win so that we can work diligently to address the needs of our community."
Race did come up at as well. The moderator took an audience question that asked the candidates whether voters should decide based on skin color or experience; other audience members quickly criticized the question.
Pasch also was challenged regarding her status as a resident outside of the district; . Candidate Ieshuh Griffin asked rhetorically, "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? This is necessary."
The Shorewood Public Library hosts another forum at 6 p.m. Monday. Two of the four candidates — Pasch and Shorewood resident Millie Coby — have committed so far.
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.
Pasch, Coby, Griffin and Harriet Callier of Milwaukee are Democrats vying for the seat currently held by Coggs. Coggs plans to run for her cousin Spencer Coggs’ Senate District 6 seat; with no Republican on the 10th District ballot, the winner of the Aug. 14 primary earns the seat.
The new political lines could cut African-American lawmakers in the state Legislature by half — from eight to four — Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee said at last week's forum in Milwaukee. Taylor, who has supported Pasch in the past, has endorsed Coby to take the seat.
Additionally, former state legislator Annette Polly Williams, who represented the 10th District for 30 years, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Eugene Kane she sees Pasch winning the seat as a setback in terms of black political empowerment.
(Updated Monday 6:31 p.m. with comments from Rep. Elizabeth Coggs.)