So Just How Large Was The Crossover Vote For Sheriff Clarke
I won't bury the lead. My best guess is that the Republican crossover vote for Sheriff Clarke in his stunning win Tuesday night was between 25,000 and 30,000 votes!
We'll never know for sure - but here's how I arrived at my estimate.
In the GOP Primary in Milwaukee County in 2010, Scott Walker and Mark Neumann drew a combined total of in excess of 77,000 votes. Tuesday, running unopposed, Scott Walker received around 9000 votes. So what happened to the other 68,000 GOP votes?
Some Republican voters obviously sat out the election. On the other hand, lots crossed over and voted for Sheriff Clarke. But just how many?
Let's start with the Primary election for Governor on the Democrat side. In Milwaukee County, Mary Burke drew 72,700 votes. Her crackpot challenger Brett Hulsey got 29,192 votes. In other words, a kook pulled almost 30% of the vote.
Let's put this in perspective. Statewide, Burke received 259,000 votes while Hulsey received 52,000 (83% to 17%). Subtract Milwaukee County and Burke wins with around 186,000 votes to Hulsey's 23,000 (about 89% to 11%). Why in the world would more than half of Hulsey's statewide support come from Milwaukee County?
It is, of course, possible that Hulsey had some huge base of support that turned out for him in Milwaukee County. More likely though, I believe most of the 29,192 Hulsey voters were Republican voters who happened to be voting for Clarke and decided to vote in some other races in the Democrat Primary.
It's hard for me to see too many GOP voters pulling the lever for Burke. If a GOP voter wanted to mess around however, what better way to do so than to vote for crazy Brett Hulsey?
If Hulsey's numbers in Milwaukee County approximated his numbers in the rest of the State (and there's no real reason why they shouldn't have), you would have expected him to pull around 9000 to 10,000 votes - not 29,000. Can you say crossover.
Then there are Sheriff Clarke's numbers. On Tuesday, he won with 59,209 votes to his opponent's 54,539 votes. In 2010, with very liitle crossover due to the GOP Primary for Governor, Clarke won with 30,500 votes compared to his opponent's 26,700. In other words, Clarke garnered almost 29,000 more votes in 2014 than in 2010.
The electorate is not static from year to year and undoubtedly some people who turned out for Clarke in 2014 sat out the 2010 election. Still, the majority of this extra 29,000 votes had to come from somewhere.
And my guess is that the "somewhere" was from GOP voters.
Then there are the undervotes.
The top of the ballot Democratic Primary for Governor drew about 102,000 votes. The bottom of the ballot Sheriff's race drew almost 114,000 votes. It makes no sense to me that a hard core Democrat would vote in the race for Sheriff but skip the race for Governor. On the other hand, I can easily see how a Republican crossing over to vote for Clarke would skip the Burke/Hulsey race.
Add the 29,000 votes for Bret Hulsey and the 12,000 more votes cast in the Sheriff 's election than in the Burke election and I think we can see the scope of the crossover vote for Clarke. We'll never know for certain but I think it's fair to say that at least 25,000 to 30,000 traditional GOP voters came out and voted for Clarke.
Add that number to the his traditional Democrat base and you can see why Sheriff Clarke has become Milwaukee County's most formidable politician since ... well ... Scott Walker.
And we all know where Scott Walker ended up!