Milwaukee Mayoral Race: Tom Barrett And Lena Taylor Will Face Off In General Election

Feb 18, 2020

Updated Wednesday at 12:23 p.m. CT

After Tuesday’s primary, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is moving forward in his quest for another four-year term. He and Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor survived the four-way contest.

>>Wisconsin Election Results — 2020 Spring Primary Elections

Barrett’s backers assembled at the Tandem Restaurant, a few blocks from the intersection of North and Fond du Lac Avenues. After making the rounds to greet people one-on-one, Barrett addressed the crowd with glee.

“Thank you all for coming tonight. Thank you. It's been a great, great, great night," Barrett said. "This is step one. We've got another important step to go but I couldn't be happier with the results that we're seeing tonight."

Barrett thanked his family and campaign staff, but also the people of Milwaukee. He says they’ve given him the honor of a lifetime serving the city.

“I see a city that's working to come together. Because unlike Washington, D.C., or unlike other parts of the country, where people are being divided over and over and over again, that's not the way I lead. I don't lead by pitting people against each other because I think our strength is in our unity,” he said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett speaks to supporters Tuesday night.
Credit Maayan Silver

Barrett says it’s all about making sure people have family supporting jobs and that their kids are safe. He says all people have that goal in common — no matter where they live, or their race or religion.

He says it’s his record that propelled him in this primary.

“I think people look at what's happened in this city, the fact that there's 20,000 more jobs here than there was just 10 years ago. I think people look at the violent crime rate that's gone down four consecutive years in a row. And those are real key indicators that the city is moving in the right direction,” Barrett said.

When asked about the weaknesses of Taylor, Barrett notes that she’s been in the Legislature for 16 years. He says city government is much different than state politics.

Taylor’s supporters gathered at the Skybox Sports Bar in the Bronzeville neighborhood where they chanted “Lena” and “mayor” repeatedly as Taylor entered. She greeted and hugged many of them, thanking them for their support.

“I heard you saying that we need a city that is equitable for everyone. … And I am so honored to be able to continue on this journey to make a Milwaukee that we can all be proud of,” Taylor said during her victory speech.

Lena Taylor, shown here at her spring primary victory party, will face incumbent Tom Barrett in the general election for Milwaukee mayor.
Credit Teran Powell

Taylor says equity is just one focus of her campaign. Others she mentioned are inclusion and accountability. She says that’s been lacking in Barrett’s administration.

“When you don’t have, very candidly, services that are equal across your city and you know it, that’s corruption. When individuals are bringing you solutions and ways to create living wage jobs and you refuse to do because you’re playing politics with the people’s future, that’s corruption,” Taylor said.

Taylor says the people who voted for her are proof that Milwaukee is ready for change.

Tom Barrett has been mayor since 2004.

Taylor says she recognizes the challenges of going up against an incumbent, such as getting people to change from what they’re used to, or not having as much financial support.

“What I will tell you is that when you don’t have an incumbent that has a record that they can stand on that shows equity, when you have a city that has been sued for discrimination and departments that do not have diversity, and when you have a hyper-segregated community, and you have a city that is majority people of color, let me tell you what happens: People get tired of being sick and tired,” Taylor said.

Taylor says the latter has provided momentum to her campaign. She’s feeling inspired going into the general election April 7, knowing that people are ready for change.

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