As first reported by Mark Belling on WISN-AM, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has resigned. Clarke was serving in his fourth term. He was originally appointed in March 2002 by former Republican Governor Scott McCallum and won elections in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 as a Democrat.
The following release was issued by Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson:
Clarke had been previously considered for a position with President Donald Trump’s administration. However, Clarke announced he was accepting the position prior to a formal appointment to the Department of Homeland Security. In the midst of the controversy, CNN reported Clarke plagiarized portions of his masters thesis on homeland security. Clarke then withdrew his name from consideration.
The sheriff had also been encouraged to run for US Senate against Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, including fundraising by notorious “scam-PACs” unaffiliated with Clarke. He repeatedly denied any ambition to run for senate.
Last year, Clarke was the subject of criticism over conditions in the Milwaukee County Jail where four deaths occurred, including one inmate who died from dehydration. In a dispute with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner over information released in two of the deaths, Clarke allegedly bullied and threatened the medical examiner.
However, Clarke was also popular with many conservatives, both locally and nationally. He was a prominent early supporter of Trump who recently tweeted an endorsement of Clarke’s book. Clarke spoke out against Black Lives Matters and became a national pundit supporting the police.
Locally, Clarke was a frequent critic of Milwaukee-area Democrats, many of whom also resented Clarke continuing to run as a Democrat despite his conservative profile. Often Clarke would descend into name-calling, even mocking Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for getting injured while protecting a woman who was being attacked. But Clarke’s criticisms often focused on the Milwaukee’s growing crime problems and dysfunction in the African American community. This would mean Clarke was often one of just a few elected officials in Milwaukee County willing to criticize the failures of the liberal establishment.
While Clarke’s rhetoric, unprofessional behavior and frequent absences from Milwaukee County gave fodder to his critics, Clarke was often a favorite of local talk radio. The sheriff was even a fill-in talk show host on WISN-AM, leading to speculation that the sheriff would leave his position to become a radio or television commentator. However, former RightWisconsin Editor and retired WTMJ-AM talk show host Charlie Sykes now regrets supporting Clarke, calling him “my Frankenstein monster.”
Clarke was also known for his support for gun rights, even recording public service announcements that encouraged people to purchase guns for home defense because the police would not be able to respond quickly enough to danger. That stand outraged gun rights opponents and caused former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to dump $150,000 into the 2014 Democratic Primary to defeat Clarke. The Greater Wisconsin Committee also put $400,000 into the race and the money was suspected to come from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
Despite the money spent to defeat Clarke, or perhaps because of the sources of the money, the sheriff won the 2014 August Democratic primary with 52 percent of the vote. In the November election, Clarke was easily re-elected to his fourth term.
Clarke already had two potential opponents in the 2018 election: Former Milwaukee Police Department Captain Earnell Lucas, currently vice president of security for Major League Baseball; and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert. Lucas was likely to receive substantial support from the Democratic Party establishment to try to defeat Clarke.
With the sheriff’s resignation, Governor Scott Walker will have the ability to appoint Clarke’s successor to finish the term. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting U.S. Marshal Kevin Carr, who previously served as Clarke’s top deputy, will seek the position. Lucas did not say whether he would seek the appointment but did say he is still running for the office in 2018.