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Milwaukee elects first Black mayor, Cavalier Johnson

The election was held after Tom Barrett resigned in December to become the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.
Image: Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson addresses the crowd Tuesday at his election party. Johnson defeated former Alderman Bob Donovan.Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA Today Network
/ Source: The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Cavalier Johnson became the first African American elected mayor of Milwaukee on Tuesday, overwhelming a former alderman to win the right to finish the last two years of Tom Barrett’s term.

Johnson, who had served as acting mayor since Barrett resigned in December to become U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, had been considered a heavy favorite after winning a seven-person primary by 20 points.

With unofficial returns nearly complete, Johnson — a Democrat running in a Democratic stronghold — had 68 percent of the vote to conservative Bob Donovan’s 32 percent.

Barrett had been Milwaukee mayor since 2004.

Johnson, 35, was first elected to the Common Council in 2016 and became president in April 2020.

Donovan, 65, served on the council from 2000 until 2020 when he did not run for reelection. He challenged Barrett for mayor in 2016 and lost by 40 points.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party put $100,000 into Johnson’s campaign while Donovan got $1,250 from the Republican Party of Milwaukee County and $2,500 from a political action committee for Rebecca Kleefisch, the former Republican lieutenant governor who is running for governor this year.