Special Elections Called For 3 Council Seats
Northside races called to replace Chantia Lewis, Ashanti Hamilton and Nikiya Dodd.
The seats, all on Milwaukee’s North Side, will now appear on the spring ballot with the winners serving through April 2024. A primary, if three or more candidates qualify to run, would be held Feb. 21 with the top two vote-getters advancing to an April 4 general election.
One of the seats has been vacant since July. But due to state statutory deadlines, the city opted to keep it vacant to avoid a stand-alone election that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. With the fall election now in the past, Perez was able to call special elections that coincide with the spring election cycle.
The winners will serve the remainder of the current term, but would need to win re-election to a full term in April 2024.
The position pays $73,222 annually.
Lewis had represented the 9th District since 2016 after defeating longtime incumbent Robert Puente. But the alderwoman was removed from office in July as part of a felony plea agreement for campaign finance violations and misconduct in office that dated back to her first months in office.
The 9th District is the city’s furthest northwest and includes the former Northridge Mall and Havenwoods State Forest. Neighborhoods in the district include Granville Station, Dretzka Park, Brynwood, Bradley Estates, North Meadows, Calumet Farms, Menomonee River Hills and Graceland. The irregularly-shaped district runs from the city’s northwestern limit at W. County Line Rd. and N. 124th St. all the way southeast to W. Silver Spring Dr. and N. Sherman Blvd. With a staircase-like shape, it is located east of the diagonal Wisconsin Highway 145.
A Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) report based on 2020 Census data says 62.7% of district residents identify as Black, 17.6% white, 10.9% Asian and 6.6% Hispanic. The district has the largest Asian population in the city, largely due to the growing Hmong community in the area.
Hamilton had represented the 1st District since 2004 before resigning in August to become the director of the Office of Violence Prevention. He was appointed to the new role by onetime political rival Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
The irregularly-shaped district runs from W. Bradley Rd. to W. Capitol Dr. Its primary eastern and western boundaries are N. Green Bay Ave and N. 43rd St., though one section reaches N. 55th St. It includes the Old North Milwaukee, Thurston Woods, Garden Homes, Fairfield, Tripoli Park, McGovern Park, Hampton Heights and Rufus King neighborhoods, as well as the portions of Brown Deer Park and Lincoln Park that are in the city.
The LRB report says 83.3% of district residents identify as Black, 8.2% white, 4.5% Hispanic and 2.7% Asian.
Dodd had represented the 5th District since winning a five-way special election in 2018 to replace longtime alderman Jim Bohl, who resigned for a job in then-mayor Tom Barrett’s administration and is now Johnson’s chief of staff. Dodd quit showing up for committee meetings in September and missed multiple full council meetings before attending two budget-focused council meetings in November and resigning. Her last day was Friday and she declined to say why she was missing meetings or where she was going.
The LRB report says 46.1% of district residents identify as Black, 39% white, 6.5% Asian and 5.7% Hispanic.
There is one rumored candidate who for sure won’t appear on the ballot: County Supervisor Deanna Alexander. She announced Monday she would not enter the 5th District council race, nor a Wisconsin State Senate race to replace Alberta Darling. Alexander was also a rumored candidate when the 5th District seat was open in 2018, but didn’t run.
Each of the three council races is subject to a potentially confusing ballot situation. Under state law, they will take place according to the council’s 2012 district boundaries that the prior officeholder was elected under, not the newly-adopted district maps. Voters may live in new wards that are eligible to vote in the race, but on blocks within the ward that are outside the old boundaries, rendering them ineligible.
Two special council elections were held in November to replace Johnson and now-budget director Nik Kovac. The council has had at least one vacancy since Johnson’s April election, with a peak of four vacancies starting with Hamilton’s resignation. The 15-member body has had to delay at least one vote, a street renaming, to ensure it would have the minimum 10 members required to pass the measure.