• WisPolitics


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

 5:31 PM 

Lee says series of factors helped McGee

MILWAUKEE -- A series of factors, including name recognition and a small cluster of voters with a "rebellious" nature, are likely why Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee Jr. won Tuesday's primary even though he was in jail for the campaign, says UW-Milwaukee governmental affairs Professor Mordecai Lee.

In a nine-way primary, McGee managed to capture 32 percent of the vote. In second place with 23 percent is Milele Coggs, niece of state Sen. Spencer Coggs. She will advance to the April 1 primary.

Trailing Coggs was former Ald. Fred Gordon, with 17 percent and ViAnna Jordan, with 11 percent.

McGee faces a litany of federal and state charges alleging bribery, extortion, a beating conspiracy, and election law violations.

Lee, a former Dem state lawmaker, said other factors that helped McGee include high voter turnout, good campaign organization and prior contact with voters.

While Lee couldn't recall another case like McGee's win, he pointed to how Boston politician James Curley was re-elected to Congress and elected Boston mayor in the 1940s despite facing a federal felony indictment and going on to serve as mayor while in prison after his conviction.

"There are famous stories of Boston politics, sort of last hurrah stories," Lee said.

However, that case was far different, as Curley was not in jail during the campaign.

Lee said he can't remember a situation where a jailed candidate has ran and won an election because most people qualify for bond when they are charged.

"I think that when we look at the facts of the matter, this is a very different situation," Lee said, adding that McGee's in jail is not because he's been convicted of anything, but because he's been denied bail.

Lee noted that campaign organization and political experience were also factors, pointing to McGee's organization and the strong showing by Gordon, the third-place finisher and former alderman.

"I understand Alderman McGee had a really decent campaign structure independent of the work of the candidate," Lee said. "To a certain extent what the result of the election shows is that campaign organization matters. Even without a candidate, they were able to win the election."

Although some 68 percent did not vote for McGee, Lee says that doesn't mean those votes will add up to a defeat for McGee in the general election because there will be no presidential candidates on the ballot to drive turnout among less involved voters, who tend to vote based on name recognition.

See reaction to the results here.

-- By David Wise

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