Lena Taylor

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Lena Taylor
Taylor in 2013
Wisconsin Circuit Judge for the Milwaukee Circuit, Branch 41
Assumed office
January 30, 2024
Appointed byTony Evers
Preceded byAudrey Skwierawski
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 4th district
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 26, 2024
Preceded byGwen Moore
Succeeded by--Vacant--
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 18th district
In office
April 30, 2003 – January 3, 2005
Preceded byAntonio R. Riley
Succeeded byTamara Grigsby
Personal details
Born (1966-07-25) July 25, 1966 (age 57)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (BA)
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (JD)

Lena C. Taylor (born July 25, 1966) is an American lawyer, judge, and former politician serving as a Wisconsin circuit court judge in Milwaukee County, since January 2024. She previously served 19 years as a Democratic member of the Wisconsin Senate, representing the 4th State Senate district from 2005 to 2024, and was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for one term before that.[1][2]

Taylor previously ran unsuccessfully for Milwaukee County executive in 2008 and mayor of Milwaukee in 2020 and 2022.

Early life and education[edit]

Lena Taylor was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She graduated from Milwaukee's Rufus King High School in 1984 and went on to attend the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English in 1990. As an undergraduate, she became a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She continued her education after graduation, earning her J.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1993.[1]

Legal and political career[edit]

After graduating from law school, Taylor went to work as a public defender for more than two years, representing indigent citizens in need of legal services. In 1996, she opened Taylor and Associates Law Office, a general practice firm on the north side of Milwaukee.

Taylor chairing a committee meeting in 2009
Taylor in 2009

Early political career[edit]

Taylor made her first run for public office in the Spring of 2003, in a special election for Wisconsin State Assembly necessitated by the resignation of state representative Antonio R. Riley. In the Democratic primary, she faced Ted Kraig, then co-chair of the health care task force for Citizen Action.[3] Taylor prevailed in the primary with 68% of the vote, and faced no other opposition for the special general election in the heavily Democratic district.[4][5]

About a year after Taylor joined the Assembly, her district's state senator, Gwen Moore, announced a run for United States House of Representatives, creating an open seat in the 4th state Senate district for the fall 2004 election.[6] Taylor declared for the state senate, and faced a competitive primary against six-term incumbent state representative Johnnie E. Morris-Tatum from the neighboring 11th Assembly district.[7] She prevailed with 47% of the vote; Morris-Tatum received 36%, and a third candidate received 17%.[8] She faced no opponent in the general election.[9] When Democrats won the Senate majority in 2006, Taylor was named chair of the Senate committee on judiciary and corrections, and was also appointed to a seat on the powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.[1]

In the fall of 2007, Taylor announced she would run for Milwaukee County executive, challenging Republican incumbent Scott Walker in the Spring 2008 election.[10] Walker was already widely perceived as a likely candidate for governor in 2010, and Wisconsin Democrats saw the campaign as a chance to derail him, while Republican donors—both in the state and around the country—funneled money into his campaign.[11] Taylor was badly outspent in the election, with Walker raising more than $500,000 for the campaign.[12] Walker prevailed, taking 58% of the vote and went on to win the 2010 gubernatorial election two years later.[13]

She was re-elected without opposition in 2008, and retained her committee positions as Democrats continued in the majority.[14] As chair of the judiciary and corrections committee, she expanded the committee's work on criminal justice reforms and implemented the "State of Justice" tour, bringing committee hearings to several different locations around the state of Wisconsin.[15]

Senate minority[edit]

Taylor speaking at the May 12, 2011, protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol

After the 2010 election, Republicans gained full control of state government, winning both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office. Shortly into the start of the 2011 legislative term, Walker proposed his controversial "Budget Repair Bill", which would eliminate collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin's public-sector unions. This resulted in mass protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol, which continued for months. Responding to public pressure and unable to slow down the legislative consideration of the bill, Taylor fled the state with 13 other Democratic state senators in order to deny a quorum. The situation received national attention, and Taylor was a frequent guest on progressive political talk shows, appearing several times on The Ed Show.[16] During the course of debate, Taylor made statements comparing Walker's proposed legislation to Adolf Hitler's plan to eliminate unions.[17] On her Twitter account she wrote "LIKE HITLER in 1933, WALKER is busting unions."[18][19]

Ultimately, Republicans in the Senate stripped out budget-related items from the bill in order to bypass the quorum requirement. After the bill became law, Democrats attempted to capitalize on the outrage caused by the passage of the anti-union legislation and shifted to a recall campaign over the next year. Republicans countered by attempting to recall several Democrats who had fled the state, but Taylor was not targeted due to her strongly Democratic district.[20][21] Recall elections were ultimately held for 13 state senators and the governor, 3 Republican state senators were successfully removed from office, and Democrats were briefly restored to the majority in the state senate. During that time in the majority, Taylor served as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.[22]

Prior to losing their majority, however, Republicans passed pivotal redistricting legislation, which implemented one of the most successful gerrymanders in U.S. history. The 2012 election was the first on this new map, and quickly restored Republicans to majorities. Taylor's district remained overwhelmingly Democratic, and she faced only an independent opponent in 2012, winning her third term with 86% of the vote.[23]

Taylor would go on to win two more terms in her Senate district. The only opposition she encountered in those elections was a primary challenge in 2016 from state representative Mandela Barnes, but she managed to prevail with 60% of the vote.[24][25][26]

Campaigns for other offices[edit]

Taylor speaking at a September 2015 event for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign

2020 Milwaukee mayoral election[edit]

In the fall of 2019, Taylor launched a campaign for mayor of Milwaukee, challenging four-term incumbent Democratic mayor Tom Barrett in the 2020 Milwaukee mayoral election.[27] She survived the February non-partisan primary, which narrowed the field to the top two vote-getters,[28] but was defeated by Barrett in the general election, receiving 36% of the vote.[29][30][31]

2022 lieutenant governor election[edit]

After incumbent Democratic Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin Mandela Barnes announced he would not run for re-election, Taylor briefly entered the race to succeed him, announcing her candidacy in October 2021.[32][33] She ended her campaign just two months later, on December 25, 2021, choosing instead to focus on the upcoming Milwaukee mayoral election.[34]

2022 Milwaukee mayoral election[edit]

After Joe Biden was elected president in 2020, Tom Barrett received an ambassadorial appointment and vacated the mayor's office after his Senate confirmation, necessitating a special election in 2022. Taylor ran again, but this time fell to third place in the non-partisan primary, behind acting mayor Cavalier Johnson and long-time city councilmember Bob Donovan, and therefore did not advance to the April general election.[35][36]

2023 Milwaukee municipal judge[edit]

In the 2023 Spring election, Taylor sought election to a municipal judge seat in Milwaukee.[37] She was defeated in the April 4 general election by Molly Gena, the managing attorney of a pro bono legal services provider.[38][39]


In April 2018, Taylor used the term "house nigger" during a dispute with a bank teller. When the teller refused to cash a check for insufficient funds, Taylor called the teller a "house nigger". Both Taylor and the teller are African Americans.[40]


On January 26, 2024, Governor Tony Evers announced he was appointing Taylor to fill the Wisconsin circuit court judgeship in Milwaukee County left vacant by the resignation of judge Audrey Skwierawski. Taylor would resign from the Senate later that day, and was sworn in as judge on January 30.[2]

Electoral history[edit]

Wisconsin Assembly (2003)[edit]

Wisconsin Assembly, 18th District Special Election, 2003
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Special Democratic Primary, April 1, 2003[4]
Democratic Lena C. Taylor 2,640 67.88%
Democratic Ted Kraig 1,249 32.12%
Plurality 1,391 35.77%
Total votes 3,889 100.0%
Special General Election, April 29, 2003[5]
Democratic Lena C. Taylor 475 95.96%
Write-in 20 4.04%
Plurality 455 91.92%
Total votes 495 100.0%

Wisconsin Senate (2004–2020)[edit]

Year Election Date Elected Defeated Total Plurality
2004 Primary[8] Sep. 14 Lena C. Taylor Democratic 10,042 46.80% Johnnie Morris-Tatum Dem. 7,735 36.05% 21,456 2,307
James White Dem. 3,633 16.93%
General[9] Nov. 2 Lena C. Taylor Democratic 62,689 99.16% --unopposed-- 63,223 62,155
2008 General[14] Nov. 4 Lena C. Taylor (inc) Democratic 66,751 98.82% 67,551 65,951
2012 General[23] Nov. 6 Lena C. Taylor (inc) Democratic 67,064 86.62% David D. King Ind. 10,154 13.11% 77,426 56,910
2016 Primary[24] Aug. 9 Lena C. Taylor (inc) Democratic 11,454 60.56% Mandela Barnes Dem. 7,433 39.30% 18,913 4,021
General[25] Nov. 8 Lena C. Taylor (inc) Democratic 62,099 98.33% --unopposed-- 63,153 61,045
2020 General[26] Nov. 3 Lena C. Taylor (inc) Democratic 62,405 98.34% 63,458 61,352

Milwaukee County executive (2008)[edit]

Milwaukee County Executive Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, April 1, 2008[13]
Republican Scott Walker (incumbent) 98,039 58.66% +1.38pp
Democratic Lena C. Taylor 68,785 41.16% -1.35pp
Write-in 294 0.18%
Plurality 29,254 17.50% +2.73pp
Total votes 167,118 100.0% -29.65%

Milwaukee mayor (2020)[edit]

Milwaukee Mayoral Election, 2020
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Nonpartisan Primary, February 18, 2020[30]
Democratic Tom Barrett (incumbent) 33,151 50.01%
Democratic Lena C. Taylor 20,347 30.69%
Democratic Tony Zielinski 10,385 15.67%
Independent Paul Rasky 1,902 2.87%
Write-in 509 0.77%
Total votes 66,294 100.0%
General Election, April 7, 2020[31]
Democratic Tom Barrett (incumbent) 57,492 62.55%
Democratic Lena C. Taylor 33,572 36.52%
Write-in 852 0.93%
Plurality 23,920 26.02%
Total votes 91,916 100.0%
Democratic hold

Milwaukee mayor (2022)[edit]

Milwaukee Mayoral Special Election, 2022
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Special Nonpartisan Primary, February 15, 2022[30]
Democratic Cavalier Johnson (incumbent) 25,779 41.79%
Independent Bob Donovan 13,742 22.28%
Democratic Lena C. Taylor 7,877 12.77% -17.92pp
Democratic Marina Dimitrijevic 7,521 2.87%
Independent Earnell Lucas 5,886 9.54%
Independent Michael Sampson 514 0.83%
Independent Ieshuh Griffin 315 0.51%
Write-in 56 0.09%
Total votes 61,690 100.0% -6.94%


  1. ^ a b c "Taylor, Lena C. 1966". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Bice, Daniel (January 26, 2024). "Sen. Lena Taylor appointed Milwaukee County judge by Gov. Tony Evers". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved January 26, 2024.
  3. ^ "Three legislative seats are on the ballot". Wisconsin State Journal. March 23, 2003. p. 37. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ a b Barish, Lawrence S., ed. (2003). "Elections in Wisconsin". State of Wisconsin 2003–2004 Blue Book (Report). Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. pp. 921, 924. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  5. ^ a b Special General Election - 04/29/2003 (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. May 5, 2003. p. 1. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
  6. ^ Sides, Phyllis (May 18, 2004). "She's a fighter from Racine". Racine Journal Times. p. 1. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Same-party showdown highlights fall races". Wausau Daily Herald. July 14, 2004. p. 2. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ a b Results of Fall Primary Election - 09/14/2004 (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. November 10, 2004. p. 11. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
  9. ^ a b Results of Fall General Election - 11/02/2004 (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. December 1, 2004. p. 6. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
  10. ^ "Lena Taylor steps up". The Capital Times. October 8, 2007. p. 8. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "Walker headed for victory?". Wisconsin State Journal. March 30, 2008. p. 33. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Scott Walker a serious challenger?". Wisconsin State Journal. February 3, 2008. p. 16. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ a b Tabular Statement of the Votes Cast for County Executive at a Spring Election held in the several wards, villages, and election districts in the County of Milwaukee on the 1st day of April, 2008 (PDF) (Report). Milwaukee County Election Commission. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 18, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ a b Results of Fall General Election - 11/04/2008 (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. December 1, 2008. p. 5. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
  15. ^ "About Lena". Lena C. Taylor, Wisconsin State Senate, 4th District. Archived from the original on December 24, 2023. Retrieved 2022-05-23 – via Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "A Talk with State Senator Lena Taylor of Wisconsin!". MSNBC.com. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
  17. ^ Video of Wisconsin State Senator Compares Scott Walker to Hitler
  18. ^ Wisconsin state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, says like Hitler, Gov. Scott Walker is abolishing unions
  19. ^ Hitler Tweet Among Social Media Debate
  20. ^ "Kapanke given toughest odds in recall election". www.jsonline.com. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
  21. ^ "Strong voter turnout helps recall efforts in state".
  22. ^ "Taylor Appointed Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance". Lena C. Taylor, Wisconsin State Senate, District 4. Retrieved 2022-05-23.
  23. ^ a b Canvass Results for 2012 Presidential and General Election - 11/6/2012 (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. December 26, 2012. p. 4. Retrieved February 12, 2024 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
  24. ^ a b Canvass Results for 2016 Partisan Primary - 8/9/2016 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. September 30, 2016. p. 7. Retrieved February 13, 2024 – via Wisconsin Elections Commission.
  25. ^ a b Canvass Results for 2016 General Election - 11/8/2016 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Elections Commission. December 22, 2016. p. 5. Retrieved February 13, 2024.
  26. ^ a b Canvass Results for 2020 General Election - 11/3/2020 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Elections Commission. November 18, 2020. p. 4. Retrieved February 13, 2024.
  27. ^ "Taylor formally announces mayoral run". Racine Journal Times. September 4, 2019. p. A6. Retrieved February 13, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  28. ^ Dirr, Alison (18 February 2020). "State Sen. Lena Taylor to square off against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in April election". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  29. ^ Dirr, Alison (13 April 2020). "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett easily wins reelection in race against Lena Taylor". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  30. ^ a b c City of Milwaukee - Spring Primary - February 18, 2020 (Report). City of Milwaukee. 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  31. ^ a b City of Milwaukee - Spring Election - April 7, 2020 (Report). City of Milwaukee. 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  32. ^ Schmidt, Mitchell (October 5, 2021). "Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor announces bid for lieutenant governor". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  33. ^ Anderson, Andrea (2021-10-04). "Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor running for lieutenant governor". Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
  34. ^ "Lena Taylor abandons lieutenant governor bid". Wisconsin Public Radio. December 25, 2021. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
  35. ^ Caine, Patrick (December 26, 2021). "Democratic State Senator Lena Taylor to run for Mayor of Milwaukee". WTMJ (AM). Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  36. ^ 2022 Spring Primary - February 15, 2022 (Report). City of Milwaukee. February 15, 2022. Archived from the original on April 1, 2022. Retrieved February 12, 2024.{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  37. ^ Schwabe, Amy (December 10, 2022). "Sen. Lena Taylor will run for Milwaukee Municipal Court judge". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  38. ^ Jannene, Jeramey (March 27, 2023). "Race For Municipal Judge Gets Little Attention". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  39. ^ Dawson, Drew (April 5, 2023). "Molly Gena defeats Lena Taylor for Milwaukee municipal judge". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved April 6, 2023.
  40. ^ O'Donnell, Dan (April 9, 2018). "State Sen. Lena Taylor Cited for Disorderly Conduct'". WISN.

External links[edit]

Wisconsin State Assembly
Preceded by Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 18th district

Succeeded by
Wisconsin Senate
Preceded by Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 4th district

Legal offices
Preceded by
Audrey Skwierawski
Wisconsin Circuit Judge for the Milwaukee Circuit, Branch 41
January 30, 2024 – present