Jeramey Jannene

Will City Have New Mayor By End of Year?

Committee advances Tom Barrett's ambassadorship nomination to full Senate.

By - Dec 15th, 2021 12:27 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett in "Reflections on a Historic Year" speech. Image from video.

Mayor Tom Barrett in “Reflections on a Historic Year” speech. Image from video.

Milwaukee could have a new mayor by the end of 2021.

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee advanced Mayor Tom Barrett‘s nomination to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg to the full Senate.

“These nominations have all been approved with a favorable recommendation of the committee, ” said committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey). A live stream video of the meeting, which included advancing 18 nominations, lasted less than a minute. Barrett previously appeared before the committee on Nov. 2 for a hearing.

But getting through the full Senate might not be easy.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) are holding up full Senate consent votes for more than 150 Biden nominees because of often-unrelated foreign policy issues. Cruz is reportedly concerned with a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. Hawley is demanding top Biden defense officials resign.

But Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) could call a floor vote as soon as this weekend to force the nominations through.

“The Republican obstruction of President Biden’s nominees this year has reached a new low. We’ve had to file cloture on twice as many nominees at this point in the Biden administration than Republicans had to do under President Trump,” said Schumer on Tuesday. He threatened a weekend vote that would force senators to stay in Washington D.C.

Forcing Barrett’s nomination through would help resolve a bizarre situation where city officials are trapped between geo-political international politics and Wisconsin state law.

To satisfy a state statute, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson needs to become acting mayor by Dec. 28 so the council can perform its state-mandated duty of calling a special election “as promptly as possible.” Dec. 28 is the last day where state law allows the special election to be called to coincide with the already scheduled spring elections, effectively eliminating the extra cost of staffing the polls. Having to host both a stand-alone primary and general election would cost the city an estimated $700,000 according to the Milwaukee Election Commission.

If Barrett resigns between Feb. 15 and Mar. 2, the mayoral primary could occur on the date of the spring general election (April 5) and a special, mayoral general election would take place May 3. That would cost the city an additional $350,000 by requiring only a single extra day of staffing the polls. President Joe Biden, who originally nominated Barrett on Aug. 25, could delay certifying Barrett’s Senate confirmation until February 15 to allow the city to avoid a stand-alone special election

What if the council just stretched the state law’s definition of “as promptly as possible” and delayed the election a few weeks (to February 15) to save the $350,000? Johnson told Urban Milwaukee Tuesday that he understands the Barrett administration is asking the City Attorney’s Office for an opinion on that option.

Johnson, one of seven candidates who have already filed to run to replace Barrett, said he would like the process to get started in December so it saves the city money. But he also said he’s not focused on it.

“I just go out about my business as council president,” said Johnson, who has a fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday night.

Joining Johnson in the race are Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, Sheriff Earnell Lucas, former alderman Robert Donovan, entrepreneur Michael Sampson, activist Nicholas McVey and Sheila Conley-Patterson.

Should it take until mid-April for Barrett to resign, the city could explore lining up the scheduled fall, partisan elections with the non-partisan mayoral race.

Barrett, 68, who has served as mayor since 2004, would lead the U.S. embassy, located in Luxembourg City. Situated between Germany, France and Belgium, Luxembourg has a population of approximately 620,000, similar to Milwaukee. But geographically speaking, the country, though one of Europe’s smallest, is about 10 times the size of the City of Milwaukee.

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More about the 2022 Mayoral Race

Read more about 2022 Mayoral Race here

More about the Resignation of Tom Barrett

Read more about Resignation of Tom Barrett here

Categories: Politics, Weekly

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