The Wall Street Candidate

Do you like Wall Street? Then you’ll love Alex Lasry.

Earlier this week, Urban Milwaukee Editor Bruce Murphy wrote a perceptive piece on the race for the Democratic nomination to take on Sen. Ron Johnson, should he decide to go for a third term. (I found it perceptive because he mostly agreed with my own take on the race.)

To quote part of Murphy’s analysis:

“Lasry’s access to wealthy donors certainly helps him. But it also hurts. More than 50% of the $1 million he raised came from the New York area, the campaign concedes, which reinforces the idea that Lasry lacks deep roots in Wisconsin. (73% of the money raised by (Outagamie County Executive Tom) Nelson was from Wisconsin.) “Alex is a great guy, but I’m not sure Wisconsin is ready to support a transplanted New Yorker as its senator,” (Milwaukee political consultant Evan) Zeppos says. 

“The headline in the Bloomberg story was “Alex Lasry Taps Wall Street to Out-Raise Wisconsin Senate Rivals.” A flock of New York financial industry plutocrats gave the maximum donation to Lasry. That won’t help Lasry woo average voters. 

Alex Lasry raised a lot of money in the wrong places.

“Nor will his donations from various NBA officials. It’s a reminder that Lasry’s father benefitted from a taxpayer subsidy of hundreds of millions for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena, something which surveys show voters typically oppose. Opponents of Alex Lasry might also note he was fresh out of New York University with his masters in business administration when he was handed a job as the team’s Vice President of Strategy & Operations.”

Murphy also quotes a number of Democratic strategists he’s talked to who say that if Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes gets in the race he’ll be the front runner.

I think the more likely scenario is that, if Barnes joins the race, he all but guarantees that neither he nor Lasry will win the nomination. That’s because they will split the Milwaukee support, which is now second fiddle to Dane County anyway. In April, the Democrat-backed candidate for State Superintendent, Jill Underly, got 80% and 95,000 votes out of Dane County and only 70% and 71,000 votes out of Milwaukee County.

Lasry certainly can afford to pay the consultants who understand this. That’s why Lasry’s securing the endorsement of my own State Representative, Sheila Stubbs, was so smart. Stubbs is Black and she represents a third of the city of Madison. So, the endorsement plays against Barnes on two fronts: she’s yet another Black leader in Lasry’s column (he is already doing well with Black leaders in Milwaukee) and she gives him a foothold in Dane County. Barnes can’t afford to lose more support like this. The longer he sits out, the further his window closes.

Still, Lasry is a long way from the finish line and I would expect State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski to be the stronger candidate in Dane County.

Murphy suggests that the sources of Lasry’s money will hurt him. We’ll see whether it hurts him enough to deny him the nomination. Right now, I would guess that the specter of his Wall Street support combined with his shallow Wisconsin roots and his Milwaukee base will be enough to doom his effort, whether Barnes gets in or not.

But it’s early in the game. Right now it seems like the next big move in this race is up to Mandela Barnes.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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