MADISON – Four Democrats are running in the Aug. 11 primary to replace Rep. Jason Fields of Milwaukee.
The candidates are Milwaukee native Curtis Cook II; criminal justice social worker Dora Drake; Glendale City Council President Tomika Vukovic, who also serves on the Glendale School Board; and Carl Gates, a single father and small-business owner.
Democratic incumbent Fields has represented the 11th Assembly District — which includes part of Milwaukee, Glendale and a small portion of Wauwatosa — since 2016. He also represented the district from 2005 to 2013 before being ousted by current Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
Fields, who ran unsuccessfully for Milwaukee comptroller in April, is not seeking reelection to the Assembly. The candidate who wins the Aug. 11 primary for Fields’ Assembly seat will run against Republican Orlando Owens in the Nov. 3 general election.
Vukovic said her campaign is focused on bringing quality of life back to the district through economic development, job creation and better schools.
She said there’s one thing that differentiates her from her opponents: experience.
“I’ve been doing community work … years before I ever got elected. They can’t start learning about the government at the state level,” Vukovic said.
“I gave my district a voice as an alderwoman; I’m taking that same philosophy to the state Assembly.”
Curtis Cook II
At 23, Curtis Cook II is the youngest candidate in the race. A product of Milwaukee Public Schools, he said his priority is shifting the state budget’s focus toward education and addressing homelessness and food insecurities in Milwaukee.
Though he might be lacking in experience compared to his opponents, he said his age is a benefit to his campaign because it provides a “fresher perspective.”
“I am not a politician. I’m just a working-class individual,” Cook II said. “I focus on what I do today because I have to live in this world that I’m pushing to help create.”
Dora Drake decided to run after seeing the conditions of the Milwaukee polls during the April election for state Supreme Court. The oldest of eight siblings, Drake took her brother to vote at 6:45 a.m at one of the city’s five open polling places. Rows of long lines had already formed.
“What really did it was the April 7 election here — there was definitely voter suppression that happened that day,” Drake said.
Drake’s platform is centered around investing in youth through access to quality education and also continuing financial support for essential workers and local businesses during the pandemic.
“This is a time that’s forcing us to rethink what we want,” Drake said. “I’m running to let everyone know we can collectively unite in hope and come together (to) address the issues before us now.”
Similarly, since the pandemic began, Gates said he feels the district hasn’t had proper representation. He mentioned that people in his community on the north side didn’t even know where to get gloves and masks.
“I felt like we were left out here alone,” Gates said.
Gates said the Black Lives Matters movement is at a standstill because there’s nobody communicating and “a lot of blaming.” His main goal, if elected, would be to open up lines of communication between the community and its elected officials.
He said history can inform current events, referencing law enforcement violence incidents like 1970s Kent State and Jackson State shootings.
“This is the epitome of what we are facing in the city of Milwaukee and this country 50 years later,” Gates said. “I am standing up against racism and this type of behavior.”