Gov. Evers appoints longtime state Sen. Lena Taylor to be Milwaukee judge

Taylor resigned from the state Senate Friday and will take over as a Milwaukee County circuit judge Tuesday.

By The Associated Press
Mayoral candidate Lena Taylor stands smiling with her arms crossed
Photo courtesy Lena Taylor’s mayoral campaign

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers appointed longtime Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor, a 20-year veteran of the Legislature who has mounted numerous unsuccessful campaigns for local office, to be a Milwaukee County judge Friday.

Taylor, 57, was first elected to the Assembly in 2003 and has been in the Senate since 2005. She resigned Friday and will take over as a Milwaukee County circuit judge Tuesday. Her departure leaves Republicans with a 22-10 majority in the Senate.

Evers appointed Taylor to succeed Audrey Skwierawski, who resigned last month after being named by the new liberal majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court as state court administrator. Taylor will complete the remainder of her term, which ends July 31, 2025, and would have to run in the 2025 spring election to serve a full term.

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Evers will call a special election to replace Taylor in the Legislature this spring, his spokesperson Britt Cudaback said. Whoever wins would have to run again in the general election because the seat is up for election this year. Further complicating things, the district lines may be redrawn as the Wisconsin Supreme Court ponders new legislative maps after tossing the current Republican-drawn ones as unconstitutional.

Taylor ran to be a Milwaukee municipal judge last year and lost. She also was defeated in races for Milwaukee mayor in 2020 and 2022, lieutenant governor in 2022 and Milwaukee County executive in 2008.

“Sen. Taylor is a committed public servant who has dedicated her life to pursuing justice for her community and the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said in a statement announcing the appointment.

During her time in the Legislature, most of which she was the only Black member of the Senate, Taylor has been a vocal advocate for justice reform and Milwaukee. She previously served as chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Taylor, who began her legal career as a public defender, said being named judge is a “full circle moment.” She said justice reform remains a priority.

She has also faced controversies, most notably in 2018 when she was cited for disorderly conduct. The police report quoted multiple witnesses saying they heard Taylor call a Black bank teller a racial slur. Taylor defended her use of the term, saying she thought she could speak that way because both she and the teller are Black and conversations within Black culture are different than other conversations.