Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pérez To Be Declared The Official Winner After Witkowiak Cancels Recount In The 12th Aldermanic District

José G. Pérez

Pérez could now face a recall to oust him when he becomes alderman, according to south side residents who became dismayed with the false allegations, negative campaigning and misinformation to influence the vote against Witkowiak by the Pérez campaign and its supporters.

By H. Nelson Goodson
April 10, 2012

Milwaukee - On late Tuesday afternoon, Attorney Vince Bobot announced that his client, Alderman James "Jim" N. Witkowiak decided to cancel a vote recount for the 12th Aldermanic District. Witkowiak's decision came unexpectedly because he had requested a recount after last Tuesday's election. He would have had to pay up to $5,000 for the recount and Witkowiak decided it wasn't worth it.
Witkowiak's latest decision now clears the way for José G. Pérez to be officially declared the winner in the 12th Aldermanic District by the Milwaukee Election Commission. Witkowiak's last day in office is Wednesday.
The Milwaukee Common Council members, including newly elect Alderman Pérez will be sworn into office on April 17.
The official election result canvass was completed on Tuesday and the vote results remained unchanged according to Sue Edman, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.
The preliminary unofficial election results for the 12th Aldermanic District were, José G. Pérez with 1,290 votes, 51.7% and James N. Witkowiak with 1,204 votes, 48.3%. Pérez received 86 votes, 3.4% more than Witkowiak. A free recount would have been available, if the margin was .05%.
Pérez declared himself the winner on late Tuesday, but he might be facing a recall once he takes office, according to south side residents who became dismayed with the Pérez campaign for engaging in a negative and dirty campaign targeted at Witkowiak. The next aldermanic election in the 12th District is expected to become even dirtier than the last one.
Last Tuesday's 12th Aldermanic election will go down in history as the dirtiest and most negative election ever in the south side. The issue of racism, discrimination and race was first brought up in the Pérez and Witkowiak aldermanic race in December when Robert Miranda, executive director of Esperanza Unida, editor of the Spanish Journal and a Witkowiak supporter made it an issue. Miranda claimed that Voces de la Frontera Action (VDLFA) and some Latino leaders in an act of racism and discrimination endorsed Pérez for alderman, throwing Witkowiak under a bus because he was White. VDLFA denied the allegations, but says, it endorsed Pérez because he was a member, eventhough Witkowiak stood and supported Voces de la Frontera on issues of immigration and issues affecting immigrants in the south side.
The race issue then viral on Facebook and throughout the district. It became an issue between Latinos and non-Latinos (http://bit.ly/sAb4FZ).
The negative campaigning began on Facebook and then spread throughout the district. The Facebook relentless attacks towards Witkowiak apparently led back and pointed to Pérez, a Hispanic candidate and his campaign manager Sachin Chheda, including some supporters, according to numerous Facebook postings, comments and serious accusations made by Who's Who in the Hispanic community. The Pérez campaign engaged in racism and used race as a determining issue to oust Witkowiak, who is White.
Chheda alleged in Facebook that Witkowiak was under investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office for shaking down business owners, taking money and corruption. Chheda failed to provide any evidence about his allegations against Witkowiak. He even targeted Witkowiak's campaign manager for being a felon, who happened to be a working mother. Chheda's attempted to embarass the Witkowiak campaign, but Witkowiak stood firm and supported his campaign manager. Chheda received a backlash from a segment of the Latino community and was criticised for bashing on a woman for having a high profile job.
Chheda is the current chairman of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party. He later apologized several times and said, it was a "cheap shot" to bring up the felony conviction. Chheda is non-Hispanic and Pérez is Puerto Rican descent.
Pérez in a prior statement admitted that he was "not proud" about some of his supporters and Chheda's negative Facebook online discussions about Alderman Witkowiak, his staff and supporters. Apparently, Pérez believed his group was forced to use false allegations and negative tactics against the incumbent Witkowiak.
Several Pérez supporters were caught passing out Witkowiak defamation literature and flyers on Monday, April 2 from a fake group called Citizens for a Stronger South Side (CSSS). The flyer was also dropped door by door in the district, according to residents.
The CSSS used an address of a parking lot on W. Historic Mitchell St. in a disclaimer on the flyer, which happened to be one of Witkowiak's properties. The suspects connected to the Pérez campaign confessed to police when detained, that they were authorized by Pérez to pass out the flyers. They were given a number to call, if they encountered any problems. When the number was called, Juan Carlos Ruiz, a Pérez supporter and co-host of Nfoque Latino, a Spanish radio program showed up at the scene, according to a Witkowiak supporter who busted the suspects distributing the CSSS flyers and called police. The suspects were not cited by police for passing the flyers. The flyers accused Witkowiak of shaking down bar owners and corruption. (CSSS flyer http://bit.ly/HSrdca)
Alderman Witkowiak denied Chheda's unsubstantiated allegations and the CSSS allegations as well. Witkowiak plans to take legal action and seek probable criminal charges against Ruiz, the CSSS group and those connected to the Witkowiak defamation political flyer.
On late Monday, Ruiz wrote on his Facebook account, that Pérez ran "a clean campaign for change!" But Ruiz seems to be on self denial, that he was actually caught being involved along with other suspects who were passing out CSSS defamation flyers against Witkowiak and that he was part of a Pérez negative campaign in the Latino district.
Neither Ruiz, Chheda or Pérez have confirmed or denied their connection to the CSSS group and the Witkowiak defamation flyer.
Since the election, Ruiz and supporters for Pérez have been calling for healing and unity in the predominately Hispanic district, but they face a difficult challenge to actually succeed in doing so. Law abiding residents will find it difficult to work or support those individuals ("thugs and goons" cited from Facebook users) who launched a negative campaign in Facebook and passed misinformation throughout the district, made false allegations and compromised their own integrity to elect their candidate.
Luis Torres on Facebook wrote, "...In my 46 years of living in the 12th district, I have NEVER witnessed such a dirty and shameful race. Shame-on José Pérez and his followers that have taken southside politics to a new low. I am Latino and proud to say that I support Jim Witkowiak, a man of honor and vision."
Pérez is not the first Hispanic to run for alderman in the 12th District, but has become the first Latino who has lost respect from part of the Latino community for his lack of integrity and honesty by allowing his campaign to engage in extreme negative campaigning in an effort to get elected, according to Witkowiak supporters.
There are about 65,000 residents, including 15,000 registered voters in the 12th Aldermanic District.

City of Milwaukee Election Commission posted results for April 3, 2012 elections at link: http://bit.ly/HfSXZp

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