Gary George (Wisconsin politician)

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Gary George
Member of the Wisconsin State Senate from the 6th District
In office
Preceded byMonroe Swan
Succeeded bySpencer Coggs
Personal details
Born (1954-03-08) March 8, 1954 (age 65)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison, and University of Michigan

Gary George (born March 8, 1954) is an American lawyer and politician from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who served as a Democratic legislator until he was recalled from office.[1]


Born March 8, 1954 in Milwaukee, George graduated from Marquette University High School, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison and received his law degree from University of Michigan in 1979.[2] He is African-American.[3]

Public office[edit]

George ran in 1980 in the Democratic primary election for the Wisconsin State Senate's Sixth District against incumbent Monroe Swan, who was considered the easy favorite. But Swan was removed from office due to a felony conviction for illegally using federally funded Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) money for his campaign for the nomination for lieutenant governor.[4]

In the general election George easily defeated Republican James Barrington, thus winning his first Senate seat.[5][6] He was reelected in 1984 and held the Senate office until 2003.[7][5] [8][9][10]

Political career[edit]

George served in many positions, including: Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,[11] Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee,[12] and Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee (a position he held for four years).[2]

George ran for governor in 2002.[2] However, he never made it into the Democratic primaries,[13] since the Election Board Commissioners were required to remove him from the ballot, because at least 221 signatures and addresses had been falsified, nullifying the validity of George's nomination.[14]

George ran for governor of Wisconsin again in the 1998 Democratic primary against Ed Garvey (D), getting in relatively late and garnishing only about 20 per cent of the vote.[2] Garvey went on to be defeated by incumbent Republican governor Tommy Thompson in November.[citation needed]

In 2003, George broke party lines and helped pass a Republican budget bill which had been introduced by Republicans at 2:55 a.m. on June 19th. Although many legislators were unable to thoroughly analyze the bill, it passed thanks to George's deciding vote. The bill was controversial because of the way it was introduced and rammed through having cut funding for municipalities.[15] and its All Democratic amendments to the bill were rejected.[16] By voting for this Republican bill, George angered his fellow Democrats who didn't forget.[2]

A recall was launched against George in 1986. Earlier that year George had supported Republican President Ronald Reagan which reportedly so angered Democrats that they launched the recall election.[17] He challenged the recall nomination signatures of his opponent. After winning his case against his opponent, the recall effort ended.[18][19]


Seventeen years later, another recall petition was initiated against Senator George after he voted against a bill sponsored by the Democratic Governor of Wisconsin, Jim Doyle. The bill supported gambling expansion at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee.[20][21] The Potawatomi Bingo Casino created jobs for the black community in Milwaukee and activists argued that George did not represent his voters when he opposed gambling expansion.[20]

Over 15,000 signatures were gathered on the 2003 petition to recall George (8,071 signatures were needed to initiate an election).[22] Jerrel Jones, owner of WNOV-AM and publisher of the Milwaukee Courier, paid individuals circulating the petition a dollar for each name collected.[23] George contested the petition signatures all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled against him.[24][25] George rented an apartment inside his district but opponents claimed his primary residence was in the Town of Grafton outside his district limits.[26][27]

The recall effort was successful and George was removed from office in 2003.[21] Democratic Representative Spencer Coggs opposed George in the special primary election held on October 21, 2003. Coggs won the special primary election and was the only candidate on the special general election ballot of November 18, 2003.[27][28][29][30]

Criminal convictions and allegations of conspiracy[edit]

George was convicted in 2004 of a felony, in a plea deal concerning a kickback scheme involving a Milwaukee social service agency, and sentenced to four years in federal prison for conspiring to defraud the government.

Soon after his 2007 release from prison, he was implicated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a plot to overthrow the government of Laos, but was not charged, unlike some of his alleged fellow conspirators, including one of his former aides and General Vang Pao.[31] He was disbarred, but in 2011 the state Supreme Court reinstated him.

Attempted comebacks[edit]

In June 2014, George filed nomination papers to run against Congresswoman Gwen Moore in the Democratic primary, claiming that he was running "in response to citizen demands for stronger leadership from Milwaukee's political community."[32] He lost in the August 2014 primary, with 21,234 votes to Moore's 52,380 (79%).[33] He tried again in 2016,[34] and again in 2018, losing the August primary by an 8 to 1 margin.[35]


  1. ^ Profile,; accessed November 28, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Richmond, Todd (August 7, 2004). "THE RISE AND FALL OF GARY GEORGE; A BRILLIANT CAREER, IN ASHES". Madison Capital Times. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  3. ^ "Will Gary George get his law license back?". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  4. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. Wisconsin Legislators Charged with Crimes and Violations of Ethics and Campaign Finance Laws, 1939-2010, p. 4.
  5. ^ a b "WI State Senate 06". Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  6. ^ Profile,; accessed November 28, 2014.
  7. ^ "Term: George, Gary R. 1954". Dictionary of Wisconsin History. Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  8. ^ Spivak and Bice, Cary and Dan (April 30, 2003). "Recall group set to file 15000 signatures". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  9. ^ Gary George recall Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 28, 2014.
  10. ^ Profile[permanent dead link],; accessed November 28, 2014.
  11. ^ Sappenfield and Shannon, Senior Staff Attorneys, Anne and Pam. "WISCONSIN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE" (PDF). Wisconsin State Legislature. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  12. ^ State of Wisconsin (February 15, 2001). 2001 ASSEMBLY BILL 126 (PDF). State of Wisconsin 2001-2002 Legislature. p. 1. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  13. ^ Marley, Patrick (October 4, 2011). "State took years before demanding back taxes from former Sen. Gary George". Milwaukee Wisconsin Sentinel. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  14. ^ McBride, Jessica; Spice, Linda (August 2, 2002). "Board removes (Gary) George from primary ballot". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
  15. ^ "Shameful GOP Attempts to Silence Debate on Senate Floor Disgrace Republicans". In the News Press Release. June 23, 2003. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  16. ^ Carpenter, Tim. "IN THE NEWS Press Release". letter. Wisconsin State Senate Tim Carpenter. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  17. ^ Richmond, Todd (October 22, 2003). "Wisconsin state Sen. Gary George removed from office in recall election". Ludington Daily News. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  18. ^ Richmond, Todd (August 7, 2004). "The Rise and Fall of Gary George; A Brilliant Career, in Ashes". Madison Capital Times. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  19. ^ Richmond, Todd (October 22, 2003). "Revolt ousts Senator George". The Chippewa Herald. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  20. ^ a b Spivak, Cary (March 21, 2003). "Papers rip George over casino stance". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  21. ^ a b "Gary George Beaten By Coggs In Recall Election". News article. Hearst Stations Inc. on behalf of WISN-TV. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  22. ^ Spivak, Cary; Bice, Dan (March 21, 2003). "Papers rip George over casino stance". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  23. ^ Spivak and Bice, Cary and Dan (April 30, 2003). "Recall group set to file 15000 signatures". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  24. ^ "Gary George Beaten By Coggs In Recall Election". Wisconsin News. October 20, 2003. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  25. ^ "THE RISE AND FALL OF GARY GEORGE: A BRILLIANT CAREER, IN ASHES". Madison Capitol Times. August 7, 2004. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  26. ^ Murphy, Bruce (May 25, 2003). "George's distance a flash point". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  27. ^ a b "Gary George Beaten By Coggs In Recall Election". News article. Hearst Stations Inc. on behalf of WISN-TV. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  28. ^ "Wisconsin State Elections Board Candidates On Ballot Special Primary Election". Document. Wisconsin State ElecGentions Board. October 21, 2003. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  29. ^ "Wisconsin State Elections Board Candidates On Ballot Special General Election". Document. Wisconsin State Elections Board. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  30. ^ "Spencer Coggs". Biography. Wisconsin State Legislature. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  31. ^ [ Bulwa, Demian. "Ex-Wisconsin lawmaker implicated in Laos coup plot, federal agent says" San Francisco Chronicle, June 5, 2007.
  32. ^ Anderson, Mike."Gary George files papers to run for Congress; Recalled senator convicted in 2004 of felony fraud",, June 3, 2014.
  33. ^ Bergquist, Lee. "Election 2014: Allen, Brostoff, Wanggaard, Bowen win legislative primaries", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 13, 2014.
  34. ^ Johnson, Annysa. "Gary George Challenges Gwen Moore for House Seat" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 16, 2016
  35. ^ "Election Results".