Gary George (Wisconsin politician)

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Gary George
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 6th district
In office
January 5, 1981 – November 18, 2003
Preceded byMonroe Swan
Succeeded bySpencer Coggs
Personal details
Born (1954-03-08) March 8, 1954 (age 69)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma mater

Gary R. George (born March 8, 1954) is an American lawyer and Democratic politician from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He represented Milwaukee in the Wisconsin State Senate for 22 years before being recalled from office in 2003.[1]


Born March 8, 1954, in Milwaukee, George graduated from Marquette University High School, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison and received his J.D. 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, winning 20 percent of the vote.[2] Garvey was later defeated by incumbent Republican governor Tommy Thompson in November.[citation needed]

A recall effort was launched against George in 1986. Earlier that year, George had publicly voiced his support for Ronald Reagan.[15] He challenged the recall nomination signatures of his opponent. After winning his case against his opponent, the recall effort ended.[16][17]


Seventeen years after the first recall failed, 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 Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee.[18][19]

Over 15,000 signatures were gathered on the 2003 petition to recall George (8,071 signatures were needed to initiate an election).[20] Jerrel Jones, owner of WNOV-AM and publisher of the Milwaukee Courier, paid individuals circulating the petition a dollar for each name collected.[8] George contested the petition signatures all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled against him.[21][22] George rented an apartment inside his district but opponents claimed his primary residence was in the Town of Grafton outside his district limits.[23][24]

The recall effort was successful and George was removed from office in 2003.[19] 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.[24][25][26][27]

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.[28]

Later career[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."[29] He lost in the August 2014 primary, with 21,234 votes to Moore's 52,380 (79%).[30] He ran for the seat again in 2016 and 2018, though both efforts were unsuccessful.[31][32]

George was initially disbarred prior to serving his prison sentence, but his legal license was reinstated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2010.[33]


  1. ^ Profile,; accessed November 28, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Richmond, Todd (August 7, 2004). "THE RISE AND FALL OF GARY GEORGE; A BRILLIANT CAREER, IN ASHES". Madison Capital Times. ProQuest 395255333.
  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. ^ a b Spivak and Bice, Cary and Dan (April 30, 2003). "Recall group set to file 15000 signatures". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ProQuest 261866817.
  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. ^ Richmond, Todd (October 22, 2003). "Wisconsin state Sen. Gary George removed from office in recall election". Ludington Daily News. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  16. ^ Richmond, Todd (August 7, 2004). "The Rise and Fall of Gary George; A Brilliant Career, in Ashes". Madison Capital Times. ProQuest 395255333.
  17. ^ Richmond, Todd (October 22, 2003). "Revolt ousts Senator George". The Chippewa Herald. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  18. ^ Spivak, Cary (March 21, 2003). "Papers rip George over casino stance". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ProQuest 261740416.
  19. ^ a b "Gary George Beaten By Coggs In Recall Election". News article. Hearst Stations Inc. on behalf of WISN-TV. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  20. ^ Spivak, Cary; Bice, Dan (March 21, 2003). "Papers rip George over casino stance". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ProQuest 261740416.
  21. ^ "Gary George Beaten By Coggs In Recall Election". Wisconsin News. October 20, 2003. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  22. ^ "THE RISE AND FALL OF GARY GEORGE: A BRILLIANT CAREER, IN ASHES". Madison Capitol Times. August 7, 2004. ProQuest 395255333.
  23. ^ Murphy, Bruce (May 25, 2003). "George's distance a flash point". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ProQuest 261816766.
  24. ^ a b "Gary George Beaten By Coggs In Recall Election". News article. Hearst Stations Inc. on behalf of WISN-TV. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  25. ^ "Wisconsin State Elections Board Candidates On Ballot Special Primary Election". Document. Wisconsin State ElecGentions Board. October 21, 2003. Retrieved October 12, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "Wisconsin State Elections Board Candidates On Ballot Special General Election". Document. Wisconsin State Elections Board. Retrieved October 12, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Spencer Coggs". Biography. Wisconsin State Legislature. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  28. ^ [ Bulwa, Demian. "Ex-Wisconsin lawmaker implicated in Laos coup plot, federal agent says" San Francisco Chronicle, June 5, 2007.
  29. ^ Anderson, Mike."Gary George files papers to run for Congress; Recalled senator convicted in 2004 of felony fraud",, June 3, 2014.
  30. ^ Bergquist, Lee. "Election 2014: Allen, Brostoff, Wanggaard, Bowen win legislative primaries", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 13, 2014.
  31. ^ "Election Results".
  32. ^ Johnson, Annysa. "Gary George Challenges Gwen Moore for House Seat" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 16, 2016
  33. ^ "State court reinstates Gary George's law license". Associated Press. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
Wisconsin Senate
Preceded by Member of the Wisconsin Senate from the 6th district
January 5, 1981 – November 18, 2003
Succeeded by