The Brookfield mayor’s race is in full swing. There are four candidates running, so a primary will be held on Tuesday, February 16 to narrow that down to two. The general election will be held on April 6. Polls are open from 7:00am to 8:00pm.
One new aspect of this election is the greatly expanded role of the Brookfield News (BN). They have the usual coverage of campaign events, but they are trying several new things like video interviews with the four candidates, asking each candidate for comments on community issues and sponsoring a community forum. Throughout it all, I believe BN has maintained its thoroughness and neutrality, which is harder than you might think. I have been a little disappointed that BN has not done much fact checking to compare candidate replies to past votes, provide links to relevant past news articles, etc. Just click the link on the home page to get to the one page that links to everything else.
No one performs credible professional polls for a small town race like this. It’s just too expensive. However, BN is providing an informal non-scientific poll. Here is a snapshot of the results from the morning of Tuesday, February 3. You shouldn't read too much into these numbers since any reader can make a choice, even if they don’t live in Brookfield! The web page has a mechanism to allow only one vote per reader, but I’m sure there is some way to defeat it to vote early and often. Still, it’s all we have. With all those qualifiers in mind, here is my interpretation of the poll.
Jeff Speaker is clearly the front runner, as you would expect of an incumbent. The three pairings with his name are the top three vote getters, so the high popularity must be him. Steve Ponto appears to be in second place for the same reason. Tom Schellinger is third. Watching this page over the last week shows Schellinger to be gaining. I saw a big jump last week after his automated phone call blitz. Dave Marcello, in spite of running the most technically sophisticated campaign, brings up the rear.
So, as of today, it looks like Speaker and Ponto, but Schellinger might be a wild card after all. In any event, I'm expecting a pretty close vote. Remember, in 2006 Speaker came in second in the primary to Cindy Kilkenny but ultimately won the general election by a decisive 62%-38% margin. In 2002 Speaker came in second in the primary to Mike Jakus but won the general election. In 1998, incumbent Mayor Kate Bloomberg came in second in the primary to Jerry Wolff but ended up winning. There's an old saying, "A third of the people always vote for the incumbent, a third never vote for the incumbent, so the election is decided by the last third. And you only need half of them!"
The third and final primary campaign candidate forum is this Thursday, February 4 at 7:00pm in the City Hall Council Room. It's sponsored by the East Central Branch of the Waukesha County Republican Party. I don't know the exact format, but past events allowed questions from the audience. Questions are usually requested to be in writing, so bring a pen. That allows the moderator to combine related questions, keep them in the order asked, etc.
My experience is that most local election voters make up their mind the weekend before the election. Expect to get flooded with campaign fliers, automated phone calls and maybe even a knock on the door. When I am campaigning I see a huge spike in my web site traffic that last week.
If you choose to vote by absentee ballot, contact the City Clerk for instructions either by phoning 262-782-9650 or stopping by City Hall during normal business hours. The April general election is during Elmbrook School District’s spring break, so I expect many absentee ballots to be cast.