State Sen. Lena Taylor announces 2020 challenge to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

September 5, 2019

State Senator Lena Taylor

State Sen. Lena Taylor announced Tuesday, September 3, 2019, she will challenge Mayor Tom Barrett in 2020.

At a press conference outside her Capitol Drive home Tuesday, the fourth-term Democratic senator recounted growing up in a Milwaukee she says is different from today.

“We are at a crossroads,” she said.

Taylor cited what she sees as a lack of action on the part of Barrett’s administration to address issues in the city.

Her announcement follows years of speculation that she might be interested in the position.

Taylor, 53, has criticized Barrett on a variety of fronts, previously telling the Journal Sentinel that he is “disconnected” from voters on issues of race, job creation, concerns over police, income inequality and issues at the city’s health department.

Taylor was first elected to the state Assembly in a special election in April 2003 and was elected to the state Senate the next year.

Taylor ran against Scott Walker in 2008 when he was Milwaukee County executive, and although she lost the race, she carried the city by 5,000 votes.

When Walker became governor, she was one of the Democratic state senators who fled the state in an effort to block a vote on Act 10, Walker’s legislation that limited the power of public employee unions.

Taylor has also had a series of controversies over her tenure.

In 2018, she received a disorderly conduct municipal citation for berating a bank teller. The teller and four witnesses told Milwaukee police that Taylor called the teller a “house (N-word)” after a dispute over depositing an $825 check, according to police reports.

She pleaded no contest and paid a fine, according to city records.

In the weeks that followed, a Senate human resources investigation found that she bullied her staff and retaliated against an employee for using family and medical leave. She was subsequently removed from the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which at the time she called a “political lynching.”

Taylor will join a number of other candidates.

Ald. Tony Zielinski announced his run for the position in late 2017. Late last year, Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton filed papers to run for the office, but he hasn’t made a formal announcement. It’s unclear if he actually will run.

Barrett has yet to formally announce a re-election effort, but his campaign was sitting on $811,000, according to reports filed in July. Zielinski had more than $574,000, most of which came from his own pocket.

Taylor had about $2,200 cash on hand, according to her July campaign finance report. That includes an outstanding balance of about $35,500 she’s loaned to her campaign.

It was unclear whether Taylor is abandoning plans to seek re-election to the Senate in the fall of 2020.