Milwaukee mayor's race: Six candidates likely on ballot

Six Milwaukee mayoral candidates submitted enough signatures to get on the ballot, as the deadline to submit to the Milwaukee Election Commission has passed.

Twelve candidates registered to run for mayor, but only eight turned in signature. These six submitted enough to get on the ballot:

  • Milwaukee Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic
  • Former Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan
  • Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson
  • Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas
  • Businessman Michael Sampson
  • State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee)

MPS Special Education Teacher Sheila Conley-Patterson and activist Ieshuh Griffin did not submit enough valid signatures, Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said. Griffin did meet the 1,500 signatures threshold, but Woodall-Vogg said some did not have valid addresses; Griffin can still try to prove they are valid to get on the ballot.

City Attorney Tearman Spencer, who had planned to run, did not turn in signatures.

Candidates had until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11 to gather at least 1,500 signatures and drop them off with the Milwaukee Election Commission to get a spot on the ballot.

"I was probably out of for 10 to 12 hours a day from (Dec. ) 26 on," said Sampson. "It's really hard. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. You know, just being able to go into bars, restaurants, ice skating rinks, anywhere you could go that you think people would be at."

Through holidays, cold and a pandemic, collecting signatures was hard not just for newcomers like Sampson, but for those who have previously run for office, too.

"You have to consider, I had Christmas and New Year's and freezing cold and a pandemic," State Sen. Taylor said. "I wasn't able to really get out, except maybe a week that I was able to get out, knock on doors, go to events, do that kind of stuff."

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"The people who stepped up, though, that's the part that warms my heart. This is not about me," Taylor added "This is about the people making a choice in deciding, and so they were happy to decide."

On Dec. 23, the Milwaukee Common Council called a special election to fill the remainder of former Mayor Tom Barrett's term. He resigned to become the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

Candidates for Milwaukee mayor had two-and-a-half weeks to get the 1,500 signatures. For some, like Sampson, that amounted to roughly 200 sheets of paper with close to 1,800 signatures.

"It's difficult, to say the least, to collect the number of signatures. It's a lot, so it's a challenge that myself, my campaign, every other campaign is going to have to go through. But, it’s a challenge that we're up to, a challenge that will meet and exceed," Acting Mayor Johnson, who is running for the permanent position, said as he collected signatures on New Year's Eve.

Milwaukee Election Commission

Still, getting the necessary signatures is not the end of the challenge.

"The most important thing to us is accuracy," said Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg. "We slow down, and we make sure we're reviewing every signature, every header and making sure that everything is accurate – but we are staffed for this."

The executive director said she hopes her office will wrap up that work on Wednesday. The city's election commissioners will meet Monday to hear challenges and certify who makes it onto the final ballot.

Claire Woodall-Vogg

With the primary set for Feb. 15, the city plans on having 180 polling places. Early voting will begin at three sites on Feb. 1. Then, a week before the election, the city plans to expand early voting to six libraries. The top two vote-getters will face off on April 5.

"We are worried about staffing given the pandemic, but we are making sure that we're keeping our staff safe," Woodall-Vogg told FOX6. "We had actually, before Christmas, ordered KN95 masks for all of our election workers."

Besides the new masks, this Milwaukee primary and election will look different from the fall of 2020.

"With the recommendation of the health department, we are not having plexiglass anymore because it stifles airflow. You won't see the big plexiglass barriers, but all of our staff will be masked, many of them will have face shields on and will be frequently sanitizing surfaces in the polling places."

To verify your registration or to register to vote, check out the state of Wisconsin's voting website:

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