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What you need to know about the July 2 special primary for a Milwaukee-area Senate seat

What you need to know about the July 2 special primary for a Milwaukee-area Senate seat

Voters in a Milwaukee Senate district have primaries in two weeks, much earlier than the Aug. 13 primaries for other partisan offices in the state.

Here’s what you need to know about why there’s a special election for some Milwaukee voters, who’s participating and how to make a plan to vote:

Why is there a special election in Milwaukee, and when is it?

The special election is July 30, with a primary on July 2. Only voters from Milwaukee’s 4th Senate District will go to the polls those days, not all Wisconsin voters.

The 4th Senate District became vacant when former state Sen. Lena Taylor resigned after becoming a circuit judge in Milwaukee County.

This election is intended to fill the remainder of Taylor’s term, which ends in January. Candidates will have to run again for a full four-year term on the same dates of August 13 and November 5 as other state representatives and senators.

Reminding people in the district that an election is coming has been a challenge, said Rep. LaKeshia Myers, who is running for the seat. Rep. Dora Drake, who is also a candidate, said voters have noticed how quickly the election is coming.

“July is not on people’s radar when it comes to voting, especially in Wisconsin. They say, ‘Wait, what? What do you mean? It’s right before the Fourth of July,'” Myers said. “I’m like, ‘I know, that’s why I’m here to remind you.'”

More: Evers is planning a special election for seats vacated by Lena Taylor and Mike Gallagher

View the new Senate districts

This map shows the Wisconsin State Senate Districts under the previous 2022 map on the left and the new 2024 map on the right. Each district is colored depending on the situationleans Democrat, leans Republicanor is acompetitive neighborhood (within 5%).

Old maps (2022)

New cards (2024)

Note: District partisanship ratios are calculated using voting data from state and local elections from 2016 to 2022. Districts with less than a 5% difference in Republican and Democratic votes are considered competitive districts.

Map by Andrew Hahn and Eva Wen / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Am I included in the 4th Senate District?

You can type your address into this 4th Senate District map to find out if the special election applies to you.

The district includes much of the northern third of Milwaukee County, with some pockets such as Brown Deer, Fox Point and Whitefish Bay.

The district did not change its boundaries under the new maps, unlike others in the Milwaukee area. So if Taylor was last your senator, you are still part of the 4th Senate District.

More: Which Milwaukee-area constituencies are changing and which remain the same?

More: Here are 10 races to watch on Wisconsin’s new competitive legislative maps

Who is running in the 4th Senate District special election?

There are two Democrats running in the primaries: Myers and Drake. Both are state representatives who already serve parts of the 4th Senate District.

No Republicans filed nomination papers to participate in the special election.

Who is LaKeshia Myers?

Myers has served in the State Assembly since 2018 and has a background in education. In an interview, Myers said her top issues include state education funding; addressing problems in state prisons, with an emphasis on rehabilitation; and reducing reckless driving.

LaKeshia Myers represents the 12th Assembly District.LaKeshia Myers represents the 12th Assembly District.

LaKeshia Myers represents the 12th Assembly District.

Myers said she wants a “real, robust discussion” about municipalities’ ability to implement policies like red light cameras and aircraft enforcement. She also said stakeholders such as prosecutors, judges and the public should be on the same page about the use of the current statutes.

Myers said she is interested in joining the Senate to be a more effective lawmaker: Being in the House means more staff, more variety in committee assignments and a closer group of colleagues.

She cited her previous work on passing a law against sexual assault by a police officer. Myers also worked on the CROWN Act in Wisconsin to ban discrimination based on hairstyle or hair texture.

On the issues facing Milwaukee Public Schools, Myers said she wants to see the results of audits for insights on how to effectively use the budget to better serve families. She worries about the differences in programming between schools, such as the fact that some schools don’t have a librarian or art teacher every day. She also said there should be a student member on the school board.

“I graduated from MPS, my parents both retired from Milwaukee Public Schools, I went back to teach at Milwaukee Public Schools. I have a vested interest in seeing Milwaukee Public Schools survive and do well,” said Myers.

Myers worked as a dean of students within the Wauwatosa School District, but left earlier this year under unclear circumstances. Her departure came after the district suspended her, although Myers said she resigned of her own accord. Many lawmakers have second jobs, but only a few work in two government-paid positions.

More: Bice: State Rep. Myers left his school job after numerous complaints from families

“I think Wauwatosa is the fourth school district I’ve worked for in my career, in 17 years. In 17 years, I never had any problems until I got to Wauwatosa,” Myers said. “I think there was some uproar among people in the district who didn’t like the fact that I was a state representative and that I was working as a teacher in Wauwatosa.”

Here is a link to Myers’ campaign website.

Who is Dora Drake?

Drake has served in the State Assembly since 2020. She has a background in social work. Her top priorities include public safety, mental health and issues affecting the workforce, such as child care, she said in an interview.

Dora Drake represents the 11th Assembly District.Dora Drake represents the 11th Assembly District.

Dora Drake represents the 11th Assembly District.

On reckless driving, Drake said she wants to look at models from other cities and not just introduce legislation that increases penalties. Drake said she supports red light cameras. She also cites her co-sponsorship of a bipartisan bill that created a scholarship program to help low-income students pay for driver’s education, and she wants to see that program expanded.

Drake said she wants to work on state laws for expanded oversight and the process for responding to a mental health crisis, and she wants to have an intergovernmental response to mental health care.

“I know there’s been a lot of unspoken trauma that’s happened in our community, whether it’s gun violence, whether it’s just people needing to talk to someone,” Drake said. Going to the Senate “would give me the time to really work on that in the way that I want to, which means I want community input. I want to make sure residents are part of the solution.”

Drake cited her previous work in creating the state’s first vaping regulations, and she supports banning flavored menthol and tobacco products. She also referenced a police liability law that requires employment records to be transferred when an officer changes departments.

On MPS, Drake said she supports an independent audit to determine the extent of the situation. She said political agendas must be put aside.

“There has to be a way to support our teachers in the classroom, and most importantly, make sure (the children) have the resources they need to get a quality education,” Drake said. “Going forward, we must always strive for accountability and transparency when it comes to our school system.”

Myers challenged Drake’s nomination papers for the election, but the Wisconsin Elections Commission kept Drake on the ballot. Drake had supporters sign the form for nonpartisan offices, such as judge, instead of the form for partisan positions, such as legislature. However, her nomination papers had the phrase “Democratic Party” typed on the form. Drake called the challenge “frivolous.”

More: Bice: Milwaukee Senate candidate could be barred from voting for using wrong nomination form

Here’s a link to Drake’s campaign website.

Where is my polling station and when can I vote?

You can visit myvote.wi.gov to find information such as your polling place. If you enter your address in “What’s on My Ballot” and a sample ballot for the special election appears, you’ll know this applies to you.

On election day, polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is the Thursday before the election, or June 27.

The city also offers the following locations and hours for early voting, also known as in-person absentee voting:

Capitol Drive Voting Center (southwest corner of 60th Street and West Capitol Drive)

  • 9am to 5pm on weekdays from June 18 to June 28

  • Saturday, June 22 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m

Villard Library and Good Hope Library

  • Tuesday June 18 and 25 and Monday June 24 from 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM

  • 11am to 5pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, June 19-21 and June 26-28

  • Saturday, June 22 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m

Clinton Rose Senior Center

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee-area voter’s guide to special Senate primary elections on July 2