Governor Scott Walker’s office announced today that he will not be appointing a new Milwaukee County Sheriff to replace David Clarke who resigned last August to take a position with a superPAC supporting President Donald Trump. Instead, acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt will serve the remainder of the term which ends January 7, 2019.
“With the November election just months away, Governor Walker believes it is best left to the voters of Milwaukee County to decide who their next sheriff should be,” said Amy Hasenberg, Governor Walker’s press secretary, in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.
The office of county sheriff is a partisan office in Wisconsin. Clarke, a Democrat who was supported by conservatives and in turn supported some conservative causes, was appointed by Republican Governor Scott McCallum in 2002 after then-Sheriff Lev Baldwin suddenly retired to take advantage of Milwaukee County’s enhanced pension benefits. Clarke’s decision to run as a Democrat surprised political observers at the time since he was appointed by a Republican governor and was expected to run as a Republican.
Walker’s decision not to appoint a sheriff in heavily Democratic Milwaukee County allows him to avoid seeing the appointee run as a Democrat and lose in a Democratic primary in August or run as a Republican in a likely doomed effort in November.
Schmidt is still deciding whether to run for the office for a full term. Former Milwaukee Police Capt. Earnell Lucas, who also served as head of security for Major League Baseball, is currently running as a Democrat. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Siefert is also considering running for the office.
Schmidt and Clarke recently clashed on the Dan O’Donnell show on WISN-AM over conditions at the county jail and who was responsible for the personnel on site.