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John Chisholm

Endorsement: Milwaukee needs DA John Chisholm

The Wisconsin Gazette strongly supports John Chisholm for re-election as Milwaukee County District Attorney. He has served the community well, and is widely considered one of the best district attorneys in the nation. Chisholm’s “public health” approach to crime prevention is becoming a national model. The New Yorker featured Chisholm in a laudatory 2015 article titled, “The Milwaukee Experiment.”

As part of his strategy, Chisholm helped spearhead creation of the $21 million Sojourner Family Peace Center. It brings together a wide array of partners, including his office, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Schools, Jewish Family Services and the Milwaukee Police Department to provide intervention services —including shelter, child protection and core health and legal services — for people at risk of becoming part of the revolving door of violence in underprivileged communities.

But a district attorney who does a good job invariably makes some enemies. As Milwaukee County’s chief prosecutor, John Chisholm has made some big ones.

First and foremost among them are Scott Walker supporters, especially wealthy dark-money groups. Chisholm irked them by going after their efforts to circumvent election laws.

When independent John Doe investigations found evidence of illegal electioneering by Walker’s staff in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office, Chisholm took a big political risk by agreeing to prosecute. He took an even greater risk by joining with a bipartisan group of DAs in a second John Doe case that uncovered what was then illegal coordination of dark money groups with Walker’s campaign. The state’s Supreme Court, led by justices who had taken huge amounts of money from those same groups, retroactively changed the law and threw out the case.

Now the corrupt dark-money groups are out for revenge by trying to knock Chisholm out of office in a low-turnout Aug. 8 primary election. They’ve chosen Verona Swanigan, an attorney with no prosecutorial experience and not much of a trial-court record, to face off against Chisholm.

Swanigan is a goofy fake Democrat in the mold of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. There are differences: Clarke dresses up like a cowboy, while Swanigan barely dressed for the cover of her book of erotic poetry. And unlike Clarke, who’s prone to lunatic rants laced with Trump-style insults — he once accused Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele of penis envy — Swanigan possesses great personal charm.

But like the sheriff, she’s supported by local right-wing radio. And also like him, she claims to be a “conservative democrat,” even though her campaign is backed financially by Koch-brothers’ operatives, in her case Craig Peterson.

Swanigan won’t talk to the press or debate Chisholm for the obvious reason that she knows nothing about the job, which involves overseeing a massive bureaucracy and 125 assistant district attorneys. She’s probably not too keen on having to discuss her pro-Walker supporters, either.

Swanigan’s backers are apparently using her race — she’s African American — to tap into some of the black community’s anger with Chisholm for not prosecuting Christopher Manney and others. Manney was the Milwaukee police officer who shot to death Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed, schizophrenic black man in Red Arrow Park two years ago. Chisholm concluded that the law did not support filing charges.

That case notwithstanding, Chisholm embodies the creativity, skill, dedication and integrity that every community longs to have at the helm of its district attorney’s office. Make certain that we keep him in office by voting Chisholm on Aug. 8.

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