Entrance to Senate Chambers in the Wisconsin State Capitol. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)
Gov. Tony Evers appointed Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), a longtime state lawmaker who has been seeking a new position in Milwaukee for several years, to serve as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge on Friday.
Taylor will fill the seat left vacant by Judge Audrey Skwierawski, who resigned from the position in December of last year to serve as the Director of State Courts. Her appointment starts on Jan. 30 and will run through July 31, 2025.
“It is with great honor that I both thank the people of the 4th [Senate district] for the opportunity to serve them since 2005 and Gov. Evers for the opportunity to take my life experiences, constant quest for the truth, and unwavering commitment to equity and justice for all to the Circuit Court of Milwaukee County,” Taylor said in a statement.
Evers called Taylor a “committed public servant,” saying she has “dedicated her life to pursuing justice for her community and the people of Wisconsin.” He said he was confident she would serve Milwaukee County well as a circuit court judge.
Taylor said in a statement that she plans to resign from her Senate seat Friday afternoon.
Evers’ office said that he will call a special election later this spring to fill the seat representing the heavily Democratic district for the rest of her term, which runs through the end of the year. Her seat will be on the ballot in the fall, meaning whoever wins would have to run again to serve a full four-year term.
Rep. LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee), who was first elected to the Assembly in 2018, announced that she plans to run for the seat. In the position, she said that she would “provide a continuum of service for the people of the 4th Senate District.”
Taylor has served in the Legislature for two decades, after first winning election to the Assembly in 2003. She has served in the Senate since 2005.
Throughout her time as a lawmaker, Taylor has chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, co-chaired the Joint Committee on Finance and served on the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee and the Joint Committee of Criminal Penalties Review.
Taylor has been looking to serve in a different position for several years, but recent campaigns for local office haven’t panned out. Most recently, she lost her campaign last year to serve as Milwaukee municipal judge. Taylor ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Milwaukee in 2020 and 2022. She also briefly ran a campaign for lieutenant governor in 2021.
Senators congratulated Taylor on her appointment on Friday. Republican Sen. Van Wanggard of Racine said in a statement that he would miss working with Taylor.
“Although we come from different backgrounds and political philosophies, Lena and I were able to work together more often than not, as we did on improving policing,” Wanggard said. “Never at a loss for (a lot) of words, Lena was a passionate advocate for Milwaukee and her beliefs. Even when we weren’t able to reach an agreement, we were often able to reach understanding. I look forward to working with her in her new capacity as a member of the judiciary.”
Senate Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) applauded the appointment, calling Taylor “a fierce and effective advocate for the people of Milwaukee.”
Prior to the Legislature, Taylor served as a public defender starting in 1993 and opened a general practice firm in Milwaukee in 1996.
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