Democrat Chris Larson is the Milwaukee County supervisor for the 14th District. Now, he wants to be a state senator. Larson is challenging incumbent Jeff Plale, vying for the 7th District seat.
Voters in the 14th District chose Larson, a former shoplifter, to represent them.
Will voters in the 7th District chose shoplifter Larson to be their state senator?
About Larson's illegal activities--
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 2008:
Christopher Larson is a 27-year-old business manager for a series of sports stores who is the favorite to win a seat on the County Board.
But things were much different in March 2000.
Larson was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and, by his own description, struggling to make ends meet.
That's when he was busted for retail theft.
"I made a dumb mistake," Larson said Friday.
The details of the case are fuzzy. He said he was caught stealing food from a Milwaukee grocery store. He said he can't remember exactly which items he tried to obtain with a five-finger discount. A copy of the city ticket, which carried a $331 fine, and the court file were not available late Friday.
As part of a deal reached with a Municipal Court judge, Larson agreed to take a course in exchange for having the ordinance violation dropped, he said. Asserting that he has not stolen anything since, he credited the situation with "completely turning me around."
Asked if voters should take this matter into consideration when voting April 1, Larson said he didn't think so because he has changed so much in the past eight years. Larson, a political liberal, scored a surprisingly easy victory in the five-way primary contest to replace longtime Supervisor Richard Nyklewicz Jr. in the south-side district.
"Everybody makes dumb mistakes," Larson said. "It happened so long ago."
His opponent, Steven Kraeger, said he was shocked to hear about Larson's run-in with the law. He said he was not the source of an anonymous letter to No Quarter containing an official summary of the case.
Kraeger, a 50-year-old conservative, said he thought the matter should be made public. But he would leave it to the voters to decide its relevance and importance.
Does Larson's shoplifting history matter?
Obviously, voters decided it wasn't important enough to disqualify him from serving as a county supervisor.
Back in 2008, Kraeger, Larson's opponent, said, "In all honesty, it's not like he committed a felony. I also understand 'Thou shalt not steal.' Besides, when you're 19, you know right from wrong. You're an adult."
Kraeger was right. Larson's stealing was not a major thing, but it does have significance.
Should someone with a retail theft record hold public office?
How many times did Larson steal before he was caught?
This part of Larson's past does say something about his character.
Can people change?
Once a thief, always a thief?
I think it was a mistake for Larson to brush off the incident or make excuses. Simply saying "It was a dumb mistake" wasn't the best way to handle the matter. He seems to be attempting to diminish the seriousness of stealing.
It would have been wise for Larson to emphasize how he has changed personally rather than saying, "Everybody makes dumb mistakes" and "It happened so long ago."
His "everybody does it" and it was "long ago" arguments sounded childish.
In the end, Larson's supporters didn't turn on him because of his shoplifting history.
It's really not an issue anymore. It was put to rest when he successfully ran for county supervisor.
Larson was given a pass.
He's a liberal Democrat.