Milwaukee made history by choosing its first Black mayor in the city’s history on Tuesday. Voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Cavalier Johnson, a 35-year-old former alderman who was already serving as the city’s interim mayor.
Johnson, a Democrat, will now serve out the remaining two years of former mayor Tom Barrett, who resigned in December after 18 years in the job to become the Biden Administration’s ambassador to Luxembourg. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Johnson overwhelmed his challenger, former Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan, by a 72% to 28% margin.
Now he faces the challenges of governing between now and the city’s next election in 2024.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Just 35, Johnson is Milwaukee’s first millennial mayor, his triumph confirming his swift six-year rise from Common Council freshman to the seat of power in Wisconsin’s largest city.
“This city for the first time in our 176-year history has elected its first Black mayor. We did it,” Johnson told supporters at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center.
Accompanied by his wife and their three children, Johnson said “we want our city to be loving, nurturing and stable. That’s why I ran for mayor.”
Johnson said “we’ve got a lot to do,” adding the city has to stem violence, restore its neighborhoods, create jobs and repair the broken relationship with state government.
Tuesday’s vote makes Milwaukee at least the second major city without a majority Black population to install its first Black mayor this year. In January, Pittsburgh inaugurated Ed Gainey, a former state legislator, as the first Black mayor in that city’s more than 200-year history.
Both Johnson and Gainey are Democrats who won mayor’s races in cities that favor their party despite being in states considered battlegrounds in the last presidential election. Both cities are former blue-collar, manufacturing hubs that have looked to modernize their economies.
But the cities have a stark difference in their racial makeup. Milwaukee is about 42% white and 38.8% Black–only a 3.2 percentage point difference, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Pittsburgh is 66.4% white and 23% Black, a 43.4 percentage point difference.