21 March 2011

On April 5th, let us not forget: Stone touts Walker template in run for county executive

By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel
Republican state Rep. Jeff Stone of Greendale formally announced his bid to succeed Scott Walker as Milwaukee County executive Wednesday, saying he'd adhere closely to Walker's formula - keeping a tight lid on taxes, pushing for worker concessions and promoting job development.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Walker announced he will step down as county executive Dec. 27. That ensures that the special elections for his replacement can be held concurrent with spring elections - Feb. 15 for a primary, if needed, and April 5 for the runoff - and avoid costs of a separate election.

"Serving the residents of Milwaukee County for the last eight years has been an honor," Walker said in the statement.

Stone joins what could become a crowded field, with several other legislators, county supervisors and even former county executive Tom Ament pondering a run for the remaining year of Walker's term as county executive. Stone, however, becomes the first of the higher-profile prospects to announce he'll run and is the only Republican office holder among a lengthening list of possible candidates for the nonpartisan job.
"We need to look at all options to keep our county financially viable - any option except raising taxes," Stone said from his newly opened campaign office in Wauwatosa. He stressed the importance of private-sector solutions to problems in the local economy and said job creation would go a long way toward improving the county's financial condition.

Stone, 49, said he'd be a vital link for the county with Walker in the governor's office and Republicans who will run both houses of the Legislature next year. He praised Walker's tenure as county executive and noted he once carpooled to the Capitol with Walker when they served together in the Assembly.

He differs from Walker in having a background steeped in business, said Stone, who has run a printing business for 27 years. Stone said Walker's era as county executive began with a focus of reforming government, while his emphasis will be on expanding the economy.

Stone made a pitch for harmony with the County Board, which has frequently sparred with Walker. Stone also said he'd enlist the help of the local business community and others.

Though he spoke mostly in generalities, Stone said he wanted to develop a long-range plan for restoring the county to fiscal health.

His announcement drew criticism from Mike Tate, the state Democratic Party chairman, who said Stone would continue Walker policies and result in deeper financial problems. He said the party would spend "thousands" to help a Democratic or progressive candidate defeat Stone.

Stone said he expects to have to raise $800,000 or more to run a successful race. His campaign account now has a balance of nearly $13,000, state records show.

The lineup of potential candidates includes former Democratic state Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, County Supervisors Johnny Thomas and Marina Dimitrijevic, County Clerk Joe Czarnezki, County Treasurer Dan Diliberti and Ament.

Holloway will temporarily succeed Walker as county executive but must appoint an interim executive within 30 days. Holloway has said he might appoint himself interim executive, which would mean he'd hold the office through the April 5 special election.

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