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Milwaukee has moved closer to electing its first Black mayor in city history following a special election on Tuesday.

Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson, who is currently the acting mayor of Milwaukee, advanced to April’s general election following Tuesday’s primary that whittled down the field of candidates to two. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Johnson won 42% of the vote, the highest share of any of the seven candidates, four of whom are Black.

He will face off against former city Alderman Bob Donovan, who is white and nabbed 22% of the vote in a city where nearly 39% of the population is Black.

In the interim, Johnson will continue to run Milwaukee with one caveat: He was appointed and not duly elected.

Milwaukee will have a chance to change that in less than two months.

Ironically, Johnson is not the first Black acting mayor in Milwaukee.

Marvin E. Pratt became the mayor of Milwaukee in 2004 when then-Mayor John Norquist resigned before his term ended. That made Pratt the first Black person to serve as mayor of Milwaukee, even if it was only in an acting capacity. Months later, however, Pratt was not elected mayor despite winning the largest share of the primary ahead of the general election.

Fast-forward 17 years and Johnson, who had been serving as the city council president, ascended to lead city hall this past December after Mayor Tom Barrett resigned to become the U.S. ambassador in Luxembourg.

In a Twitter thread posted following Tuesday night’s primary election results, Johnson drew attention to what he described as his campaign’s priorities, including addressing gun violence, racial equity and the environment.

“We have to make our neighborhoods and our city safer,” Johnson tweeted before adding later: “We need to become the city that people migrate TO, not emigrate FROM. We need a strong creative culture to attract the next generation.”

If Johnson wins the general election, he would not only become the first-ever Black person elected as mayor of Milwaukee, but he would also be the second-ever Black mayor in Wisconsin state history.

Johnson would join Frances Huntley-Cooper as the only two Black people who have ever been elected as mayor in the Dairy State. Huntley-Cooper was elected mayor of Fitchburg — which is about 86 miles west of Milwaukee — in 1991, more than three decades ago.

Huntley-Cooper unwittingly provided a glimpse of Johnson’s possible future when she recalled in an interview about her experience immediately after winning her election.

“National Conference of Black Mayors … when I was elected, they picked up the phone the next day, told me congratulations, told me about the organization, went to the first national convention,” Huntley-Cooper told Spectrum News in 2020. She said then-President Bill Clinton also invited her to the White House.

Will the same type of treatment be in store for Johnson if he wins the general election?

Milwaukee residents will get to help determine that answer on April 5.

SEE ALSO:

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