The U.S. Senate on Thursday night confirmed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as ambassador to Luxembourg, a move that ensures there will be a 2022 special election to succeed him at home.
Barrett, who is a former Democratic congressman and three-time gubernatorial candidate, has not yet announced when he’ll officially resign from the job he’s held since 2004, but he indicated it would be before Dec. 28. As long as Barrett quits by then, the Milwaukee Common Council (the local equivalent of a city council) would be able to schedule a special nonpartisan primary for Feb. 15. The top-two vote-getters would then compete in an April 5 election for the final two years of Barrett’s term.
Common Council President Cavalier Johnson will become acting mayor once Barrett leaves, which will make him the second African American to serve as mayor of Wisconsin’s largest city; the first was Marvin Pratt, who also took over as acting mayor back in 2004 a few months before losing to Barrett. Johnson announced back in August that he’d campaign in the special election, but a few fellow Democrats also said that they’d run in the months before Barrett was officially confirmed.
The field already includes Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas, who decisively won the 2018 race that took place a year after the infamous David Clarke resigned, and Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, whom Wisconsin Public Radio called one of the Common Council's "more outspoken liberal members." Lucas, like Johnson, would be the first Black person elected mayor, while Dimitrijevic would be the first woman to lead the city.
The other notable declared candidate is former Alderman Bob Donovan, a conservative who lost to Barrett in a 70-30 landslide in 2016. Others can still get in, though they’d have to decide fast if the nonpartisan primary ends up getting scheduled for February. Whoever ultimately wins could be here for quite some time, as Barrett is only the fourth person to be elected to the post since 1945.