For the first time in decades, Wisconsin’s Kenosha County flipped red after the city gained widespread attention amid damaging riots and the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
WATCH the victory speech:
On April 5th, voters elected Samantha Kerkman as the county executive. Although Kerkman had the backing of Republicans and serves as a Republican state representative, the race was described as nonpartisan. Rebecca Matoska-Mentink, her opponent is a Democrat and serves as the Clerk of Courts.
It is the first time since at least 1998 that a Republican has been elected, and the first time a woman will serve in the position, per report.
Democrat Jim Kreuser is the current Kenosha County executive, who has served in the position since 2008. Allan Kehl, who served as a Democratic sheriff in the county before being elected, was in the position of county executive from 1998 to 2008, before Kreuser took the job. Kehl resigned in 2008, and after pleading guilty to conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws, was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Until former President Donald Trump’s 2016 run, Kenosha had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, as they are a swing county. And in 2020 the county voted for Trump again. While Wisconsin is also a swing state, with Trump winning the state in 2016 but losing it in 2020 to President Biden.
Following the police-involved shooting of Black man Jacob Blake, who was left paralyzed from the waist down by the incident, Kenosha grabbed the nation’s attention in 2020. Soon after that, riots erupted in the city after the shooting, which coincided with riots and protests in other cities across the country following the death of George Floyd.
Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and injured another on the second night of unrest in Kenosha.
According to business owners at the time, the fallout from the rioting left the city looking like “a war zone,” and the damage topped $50 million.
“I think it was the experience that I bring from Madison. I have been working with the county executive for years on issues that impact the county,” Kerkman said.