Jeramey Jannene

Mayor Cavalier Johnson Cruises To Reelection

Milwaukee mayor wins his first full-term with more than 80% of vote.

By - Apr 2nd, 2024 09:34 pm
Mayor Cavalier Johnson delivers the 2024 State of the City address. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson delivers the 2024 State of the City address. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee voters resoundingly gave Cavalier Johnson his first full term as mayor.

Based on early results with liberal-leaning absentee ballots outstanding, Johnson earned 81% of the vote. He defeated conservative challenger David D. King.

The result was not unexpected, Johnson dominated a three-way February primary when he secured 85.9% of the vote.

The incumbent was running for the second time in as many years after finishing out the term of Tom Barrett, who resigned in late 2021 to become U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. Johnson, then the Common Council President, was automatically appointed to serve as interim mayor and then won a highly-competitive primary and general election to serve out the remainder of Barrett’s term. Now he’ll have a four-year term as Milwaukee’s chief executive.

During the 2022 special election, Johnson pledged to get a “cot in the Capitol” if that’s what it took to address Milwaukee’s fiscal crisis. But whatever political capital he spent on the effort gave him far more support in return, as Johnson successfully negotiated with the Wisconsin State Legislature for a 2% sales tax to resolve the city’s fiscal crisis. His campaign drew no major challengers.

The mayor has staked out three issues during his time in office: combatting reckless driving, growing the city and improving public safety. His first act in office was to declare reckless driving a crisis and he successfully pushed for the adoption of a zero-traffic-deaths Vision Zero goal. The city is to construct 45 traffic calming projects this year and data from those constructed in prior years shows a notable safety improvement through a reduction in speeding. On the campaign trail, Johnson announced a vision of growing the city to one million residents and the resulting Growing MKE plan, soon to be reviewed by the Common Council, is intended to make it easier, faster and possibly cheaper to build new housing. During his March State of the City speech, Johnson centered his remarks on growing the city.

Public safety has improved under Johnson, with homicides and other serious crimes continuing to trend downward, but the rates remain above pre-pandemic lows recorded in 2019. As part of the grand bargain with the Legislature, the city is required to expand the size of its police force over the next decade. Johnson’s predecessor had described the previous decade-long reduction in the number of officers as “financial, not philosophical,” as salaries and benefits grew far faster than minimal state-allowed increases in revenue.

Johnson will personally benefit from something Barrett effectively blocked for more than a decade: a raise. Elected officials will see a 15% salary bump, which Johnson’s administration justified on the basis that salaries had been frozen since 2008. The mayor will be paid $169,436 annually going forward and could receive up to 3% annual raises if general city workers receive the same raise. King had been critical of the raises.

King is a conservative and had branded himself as such in the officially nonpartisan race. He ran on “a common sense platform empowering the citizens of Milwaukee to work together to actually solve the issues facing us.” He has pursued several offices. King ran for mayor in 2020, but did not submit enough signatures to appear on the ballot in a contested decision. He has also run for alderman, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state assembly and state senate. He leads a group called Wisconsin God Squad. In partisan races, he has run as a Republican.

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Categories: Politics

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