It has been a roller coaster ride, but it looks as though Wisconsin’s April 7 Democratic primary, local, and statewide judicial election is going ahead as planned. The Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance first announced its candidate endorsements on March 25. For those going to the polls today, WMCA would like to remind voters, especially those from the Muslim community, about its endorsements, including its endorsement of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
“We must support those candidates with a history of good stewardship, trustworthiness, and competence in leadership,” said WMCA president Will Perry about the endorsements. “The Muslim community has felt especially ‘seen’ by Senator Sanders for many years. We support candidates who support our community, who create policies that value diversity and social progress, and especially those who show up for us between elections.”
Janan Najeeb, president of Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, founded WMCA in 2019 to be a resource on voting and democracy for the Muslim community and to connect community members with their elected officials. Her first hire was Kristin Hansen, founder of the political advocacy and engagement organization Blue Sky Waukesha.
“With the Sanders endorsement,” Hansen said, “[WMCA] members realized what a great challenge he will have to win the nomination, but they felt it was very important to make this endorsement because Senator Sanders has been such a friend to the Muslim community, going back years. And that includes his support of Palestinian rights.”
In addition to the Democratic Primary, WMCA endorsed a full-slate of local and statewide judicial candidates in the Spring 2020 election.
“That same sentiment about longtime support of the community” that was behind the Sanders endorsement “is how WMCA members selected Chris Larson for County Executive,” Hansen said. She also cited Jocasta Zamarripa, who is running for Milwaukee Alderperson this year after five terms in the Wisconsin State Assembly, as someone about whom the community has “very vocally said, this person has stood with [us] and given us respect and cooperation for many years, and we feel very strongly about that.”
Other endorsed candidates include Scott Spiker for Milwaukee Alderperson; Judge Fred Klemnitz, who’s running for re-election to Franklin Municipal Court; and Catherine Wilson for Brookfield Common Council.
However, Hansen said that the only candidate “who got 100 percent approval – in other words, everyone wanted her and no one needed more information – was Lisa Neubauer,” who is running for re-election to the Court of Appeals, District 2. WMCA endorsed Jill Karofsky for State Supreme Court.
WMCA members got the opportunity to rub elbows with the candidates and learn firsthand about their positions at two candidate forums the organization held at the Islamic Resource Center earlier this year.
Hansen and WMCA’s board had planned to hold another event at IRC for members to vote in-person on the endorsements. However, due to the corona virus “shelter-at-home” order, voting on the endorsements eventually took place via an online survey.
“In a normal situation,” Hansen said, “we would have had a gathering of voting members,” which includes all dues paying members of WMCA. “We couldn’t do that, obviously, so we sent out an online survey to the membership, and on the survey were questions for every one of the offices listed.”
Candidates listed on the survey were those running for Milwaukee city and county offices and for suburban municipal offices in areas outside Milwaukee County where the Muslim community forms a voting bloc. WMCA members hope their endorsements will provide guidance for the Muslim community as a whole. The endorsements were based on the fact that, “a majority of voting WMCA members selected them,” Hansen said. “Anyone who signed up as a member got that survey. And almost everyone who got the survey took the survey.”
WMCA members represent a cross-section of the Muslim community in the Milwaukee metro area. While the organization’s current focus is Southeastern Wisconsin, there are plans to expand to Madison, Green Bay, and other areas of the state “as WMCA grows,” Hansen said.
Doing one’s civic duty is proving challenging in this election. Widespread reports indicated that poll would be workers in short supply today because many are over 60 and would simply stay home. However, at this writing, all polls appear to be open, at least in Milwaukee, according to city election commission chair Neil Albrecht.
Voters who choose to stand in line today at their usual polling places will be instructed to maintain six feet of social distance between themselves. Thousands of Wisconsin citizens have already participated in the election through early voting and absentee ballots. Results from today’s election, including the absentee ballots, will not be reported until April 13.