Milwaukee Democrats Rep. David Crowley, left, defeated Sen. Chris Larson in the race for Milwaukee County executive. (Photos via the Crowley and Larson campaigns)
Milwaukee Democrats Rep. David Crowley, left, defeated Sen. Chris Larson in the race for Milwaukee County executive. (Photos via the Crowley and Larson campaigns)

Crowley edges out fellow Milwaukee Democrat state Sen. Chris Larson.

State Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, will leave the Legislature to become the first African American elected to the office of Milwaukee County executive.

Crowley defeated fellow Milwaukee Democrat, Sen. Chris Larson, in a race that came down to the wire. Crowley’s margin of victory was just about 1,000 votes out of nearly 200,000 cast, according to results published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The results were finalized a week after Republicans forced voters to the polls in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I do not take lightly the fact that I am entering office in unprecedented times and in the middle of a public health crisis,” Crowley said in a statement Monday night before the race was officially called. “However, tonight I am both proud and hopeful.”

Crowley managed to hold onto his slim lead overnight as about 17,000 more votes were counted in Wauwatosa and Franklin.

Larson conceded the race Tuesday afternoon, releasing a lengthy statement on Facebook.

“In the end, it is more about each of you than it is about me,” he wrote. “If each of our 95,502 voters still fight for better public schools, for affordable prescriptions, for our public parks to remain public and to stop knocking down historic important buildings, and for a fair chance at a fair wage in a safe, stable work environment, then we will make them happen. We can unrig the system that benefits the super-rich.”

The significance of Crowley’s election was not lost on the executive-elect.

“Growing up in Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code (one of the most impoverished and incarcerated neighborhoods in the state), I could have never imagined that I would be making this statement today as the first African American elected to lead the largest county in Wisconsin,” Crowley wrote.

In the city of Milwaukee, Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, came up short of toppling incumbent Mayor Tom Barrett, who secured his fifth term in a landslide victory. Taylor would have been the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor, and the first African-American candidate to win a mayoral election.

Marvin Pratt was the first black mayor of Milwaukee and first black county executive for brief stints in 2004 and 2011. He was not elected and only served as acting mayor and interim executive for a few months.