Without fail, we expected the political climate to heat up. As elected officials, special interests and the community is lining up behind candidates, the gloves have come off.
Negative commercials, challenges, and comments come with the territory. But is it possible to go too far?
No stranger to arrogant and inappropriate actions, State Senator Chris Larson may have just crossed that threshold.
It was reported that on March 15th, while preparing to enter the Senate floor, Larson and State Senator Lena Taylor were involved in a discussion. Surrounded by legislative staffers and others, Sen. Larson was reported to have mocked Sen. Taylor by asking her “have you taken your meds today?”
It was further stated by Capital insiders that Larson went on to taunt Sen. Taylor by telling her to “enjoy her last day in the capital”, implying that she would not be re-elected to another term.
It has long been rumored that State Representative Mandela Barnes is planning to run against Sen. Taylor this fall, challenging her for the Senate seat she currently holds.
Many in the community have connected Larson to this plan, indicating that his dislike for Sen. Taylor is well known throughout the legislature.
In fact if there was any doubt, many who tuned into Mike Gousha’s televised debate between Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Sen. Larson, his challenger, were able to hear it for themselves.
When Abele questioned why Larson, in his then-role as Democratic Senate Minority Leader, removed Taylor, the only African-American and only Milwaukee legislator from the state’s powerful budget committee, Larson said that the two didn’t get along and that he basically doesn’t like Taylor.
Stunned by his remarks, many community members had begun to question Larson’s maturity and ability to lead.
After all, because of petty differences Larson was unwilling to give a Milwaukee legislator a voice at the table in decisions that without fail usually harshly impact area residents.
In his immaturity, he was unable to value the diversity and inclusion of Milwaukee constituents in seating their elected representative on the Joint Finance Committee.
There has been such representation in the more than 30 years before Larson’s actions, and since his ouster from the Minority Leadership position by his fellow democratic colleagues.
It shouldn’t be lost that in the crassness of Larson’s remarks that he also seeks to not only imply that Sen. Taylor has mental health concerns because of the contentious nature of their relationship, but that he also was justified in ridiculing or demeaning those who suffer with mental illness.
In the job Larson is currently seeking, Milwaukee County Executive, it must be understood that he would be in charge of the Wisconsin’s largest Behavioral Health Division.
Through both County-operated programs and contracts with community agencies, the County provides care and treatment to adults, children, and adolescents with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual disabilities.
Larson has been asked by community leaders, constituents, and others if he plans to apologize.
He has not indicated that he will take responsibility for his actions.
Leadership is about more than just heading a unit of government.
It is about conducting yourself with restraint, providing dignity and respect to those that you encounter, and being able to apologize when you are wrong.
Larson’s motives, in running for County Executive, have been questioned along the way.
Whether opening up his campaign office on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, to the rumors of pressure applied to African-American legislators to support his bid for this new position, there have been consistent grumblings about his wish to use the black community to advance his campaign. We could ignore that.
We have heard that Larson has a history of maligning strong African-Americans, especially women, who challenge him.
We have taken note of that. However, the disrespect of Sen. Taylor requires a response.
We must require an apology. Senator Larson, you cannot set up shop in our neighborhood, on our block, need our vote, and think you can disrespect one of our leaders.
Senator Chris Larson, you went too far. It is time that you apologize.