Kenosha County goes red after destructive BLM riots, elects Republican for first time in decades

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In a possible precursor of an upcoming red wave, Republican state representative Samantha Kerkman won the election on Tuesday for the office of Kenosha County, Wisconsin, executive.

A Democrat has held the position in the swing county for at least 25 years.

Jim Kreuser, the current executive, served in the position since 2008, but announced last May that he was retiring.

The self-described conservative defeated Democrat court official Rebecca Matoska-Mentink by a margin of approximately 51 percent to 48 percent of the vote for the job that has a four-year term in what is described as a non-partisan contest. The party affiliations of the candidates weren’t, however, a secret.

Kerkman, 47, thus becomes the first female executive for the county, which is located about 6o miles from Chicago and 40 miles from Milwaukee, and only the fifth person to hold that position.

“I think it was the experience that I bring from [the legislature in] Madison,” the taxpayer-friendly, business-friendly Kerkman told the Kenosha News. “I have been working with the county executive for years on issues that impact the county.”

In the run-up to the election, Kerkman told Fox 6 Milwaukee that “Over the last 10 years, violent crime in Kenosha County has increased over 30%. And public safety is one of those things I hear about all the time. As county executive, I’d like to work together with our community partners to try to combat it.”

While campaigning, Kerkman characterized herself as having developed “a reputation of being eagle-eyed in saving money for Wisconsin taxpayers.”

According to the Kenosha County website, “The county executive is responsible for most administrative and management functions of county government,” including preparing the all-important annual budget for the board of supervisors. “The county executive also appoints and supervises county department heads.”

Headline-making riots erupted in Kenosha, the county seat, after the officer-involved shooting of  Jacob Blake in August 2020.

“The fallout from the rioting left the city looking like ‘a war zone,’ according to business owners at the time, and the damage topped $50 million,” Fox News reported.

Kenosha was the site of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, where a jury ultimately found the teen not guilty of fatally shooting two men during the unrest.

In a separate Wisconsin election, conservative Waukesha County Judge Maria Lazar defeated Judge Lori Kornblum for a seat on the Wisconsin court of appeals. Kornblum was the incumbent in the Waukesha-based court district.

“Lazar’s win was the second time in two years a conservative-backed challenger defeated an incumbent appellate judge appointed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. Last year, Shelley Grogan, a law clerk to conservative Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, beat Jeffrey Davis, who represented corporate clients at a major law firm and had served on the Court of Appeals for nearly two years,” the Stevens Point Journal recalled.

Evers himself is seeking reelection this year in what could be another possible flip for the GOP.

“Republican-backed candidates in local school board races came out as big winners in the Milwaukee suburbs that are critical for the Wisconsin GOP in statewide elections,” the Associated Press added.

On a national level, many political prognosticators on both sides of the aisle seem to anticipate that Republicans will regain both houses of the U.S. Congress in November.

It also remains to be seen how mail-in balloting, ballot harvesting, voter ID or lack thereof, recounts, and other techniques, depending upon the jurisdiction, will affect the congressional outcome.


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