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FILE - In this July 18, 2016 file photo, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke speaks during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Milwaukee resident Dan Black says Clarke had deputies question him after a flight because he shook his head at the lawman, who has gained national prominence for supporting Donald Trump. Black says in a complaint submitted to the sheriff's website he shook his head because Clarke was wearing Dallas Cowboys clothes on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, when they played the Green Bay Packers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — With a brash, unapologetic personality reminiscent of President Donald Trump, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is positioning himself as an in-your-face conservative firebrand who has some Republicans swooning over his prospects for higher office.

The tough-talking, cowboy-hat wearing lawman is also one of the most polarizing figures in Wisconsin politics, frequently dishing out eyebrow-raising comments that make even his one-time supporters blanch.

At a pre-inauguration party for Trump last month, Clarke addressed the crowd and told them his idea of bipartisanship.

“I am one of those bare-knuckle fighters,” he said. “When I hear people say we need to reach across the aisle and work with the Democrats, you know what I say? The only reason I’ll be reaching across the aisle is to grab one of them by the throat.”

Once thought a possible candidate to be Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, Clarke’s window to join the administration is shrinking. But in recent weeks, some fans have launched a campaign to encourage him to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018.

Clarke hasn’t publicly responded to the effort and he declined interview requests.

His rise in some conservative circles comes with Clarke facing the most scrutiny he’s seen since he took office in 2002: Four people died last year at the jail he oversees, including the newborn of an inmate who is now suing and a man whose death from dehydration is being reviewed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.

And this week, a 24-year-old Milwaukee man filed a lawsuit against Clarke alleging he had sheriff’s deputies detain and question him after a flight from Dallas last month because, while boarding, the man shook his head at Clarke, who was wearing Dallas Cowboys gear on a day the team played the Packers. Clarke said afterward that “he reserves the reasonable right to pre-empt a possible assault” and mocked his accuser on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page, calling him a “snowflake” and writing, “if Sheriff Clarke were to really mess with you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”

Clarke was one of the few African-Americans to speak at the Republican Party convention last year. He has been vocal about gun rights and critical of what he called the “hateful ideology” of the Black Lives Matters movement, saying at times, “Stop trying to fix the police, fix the ghetto.”

His combative persona is appealing to his supporters, who want him to run for higher office or get a spot in the Trump administration.

“He’s got a little Trump in him. He’s got a little snark. If you prick him, he fires back,” said Nate Pendley, an attorney helping raise money to encourage Clarke to challenge Baldwin next year. The committee’s website calls Clarke “The Black Rush Limbaugh with a Badge.”

Clarke grew up in Milwaukee County, one of five children, and spent more than two decades in the city’s police department before he became sheriff.

“He was raised value-oriented family. I do think that the background that Clarke came from — those are some of the things that ground him,” said Mark Belling, a conservative talk-show radio host in Milwaukee. He said he believes millions of people agree with Clarke, but that “the media and liberals hate any African American who expresses conservative viewpoints.”

The fact that he supports Trump, Belling said, “gets under the skin of a lot of people.”

Clarke’s ascent in the political spotlight has been lucrative. Last year, the frequent Fox News guest earned more than $105,000 in speaking fees — almost as much as his sheriff’s salary — at more than three dozen events across the country.

“He’s virtually invisible here in Milwaukee,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative former radio host who criticized Clarke on Twitter in September for spending so much time out of the city. Sykes, who’s known Clarke for 15 years and once supported him, said the sheriff blocked him on Twitter after that and their relationship has soured.

“He wears a very big hat but he’s very thin-skinned,” Sykes said.

Clarke’s provocative commentary has earned him new admirers — and cost him some of his earliest advocates.

Evan Zeppos, a public relations executive in Milwaukee who was an early supporter and financial backer of Clarke’s, once called the sheriff “a John Wayne character” but has since changed his mind.

“Now, at best he’s like Barney Fife,” he said.

Zeppos said the turning point for him came in 2013 when he advised Clarke to tone down his comments after he accused the Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, a frequent foil, of “penis envy.”

“All he did was scream at me,” Zeppos recalled. “And that was the last meaningful conversation I had with him.”

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(Photo Source: AP)

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31 thoughts on “Milwaukee Sheriff’s Star Rises, But He Remains Polarizing

  1. Honestly on said:

    The house n!@@er with a badge is a joke. Clarke would applaud cave n!@@ers raping his mother. When the neanderthal apes have on more use for him, they will dismiss this black parrot. They should have never been let out of the caves of Europe.

  2. I can’t stand this nut he’s not black guarantee he doesn’t have any black friends always putting down his own race that’s what you call a serious coon uncle tom!!! Yes I said it

    • The Truth on said:

      He doesn’t put down his whole race, just those that are criminally inclined. Are you stereotyping by saying all blacks are criminally inclined. I’ve never hear Sherriff Clarke make a disparaging comment about law abiding blacks.

  3. The Truth on said:

    So let me get this straight, a dedicated law enforcement officer who favors enforcing laws and reducing the crime that is a blight to the inner cities is an Uncle Tom, a Coon? Unbelievable. Yet the thugs and criminals are worthy of your support? You fools really need to ponder this logic.

    • A danger to his race???? In 8 years black unemployment up, black poverty up, blacks on foodstamps up, black homeownership down, black labor participation down. Yeah, he’s a real danger.

    • Yeah, keep keeping it real. Just repeat what your democrat massahs want you to say. They’ll be back in four years counting on your vote.

  4. I love all the haters. An accomplished black man who ignored the democrats who wanted him on their plantation being spurned my mindless trolls like Linda. Don’t worry POC, the dems will be back in four years telling you how important you are, telling you they are here to save you and how much better off you will be. LOL

    • Mark my words, the Dems will never cow tow to this ignorant rammous, sellout. He’s blk in skin only. Hes what we call a house n word. Blks or Dems have nothing for him. We don’t need this nut case. Believe me!

      • Yeah buddy I’m getting the hell out of my White Conservative Republican run city of low crime low cost of living high employment rate, for one of those democrat utopia’s like Chicago, Flint, Gary where living is fast..and short unemployment and cost of living is High and if the crime doesn’t get ya the poisoned water will, sign me up getin my bus ticket NOW!!!

      • Yeah that’s right, blacks only “KOWTOW” to their democrat plantation owners, not to an “IGNORAMUS.” Speak the truth sistah and invest in a dictionary.

  5. ResponsibilityInControl on said:

    This guy is a joke, we went as far off base as he could in hopes of being in the administration and got NOTHING for being a pawn in a game that he would be discarded in. He didnt see that he was playing himself. LOL that is what is funny to me. …………………………..Secondly he can be shot and killed by one of his counter parts just as well as any other man of color so he is not better than anyone else. Face it guy your black you cant change it LOL!

  6. And what Democrats haven’t been saying that to you plantation slaves for decades?
    They only come around during campaign season with their black celebrity shills (over see’ers)
    And once they have your vote it’s back to their mansions while your left to your rat
    Infested crime ridden community’s (south Chicago, Oakland)

    • The words you’re trying to speak, they sound like you’re trailer trash. Go back to school fool, and learn how to speak freaking English.

    • What’s this? You obviously read my language well enough, looks like that master’s degree in Ebonics from Crack-hoe University allows you to comprehend my “trailer trash”

    • I agree! All his life he desired to be accepted by white folks and has done everything he possibly and still remain bent over hollering.

    • Why because he speaks out about the problems in the black community
      As opposed to keeping people like you uninformed and doing the plantation massa’s
      Bidding, telling you a vote for them will keep the foodstamps and welfare coming
      Like a drug dealer to a crack whore as long as we’re around you can get your FIX

      • I noticed your ass said buy “bus ticket.” “Me too broke to buy me airfare.” Says dumbass jhuf. Dumb bitch. Get the F off this webpage. We want to vent in peace. GTFOOH!!!

      • Hell Diane!!! does Detroit even have a functioning airport? or have they turned it into a tent city for all the unemployed and homeless residents

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