By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The night of an election either leaves most candidates in a state of disbelief and euphoria or in a state of shock and misery. But for State Rep. David Crowley, that wasn’t the case.
For Crowley, the night of Tuesday, April 7 was the start of six days filled with anticipation and anxiety. And while he used the time to step back, reflect and spend time with family, the amount of stress and anticipation isn’t something he would wish on anybody.
Unlike in normal elections when results are released after the closing of polls, Wisconsinites had to wait. The coronavirus pandemic coupled with a plethora of absentee ballots by mail and limited polling sites caused for a delay in counting. And although the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned postponing the election and extending the return date for absentee ballots by mail, it maintained that results wouldn’t be announced until Monday, April 13.
Fast forward six days, and Crowley is grateful and honored to be the Milwaukee County Executive elect.
“It feels good and it almost feels like relief,” Crowley said.
This victory marks the first time in Milwaukee history that an African American man has been the elect for Milwaukee County Executive. Crowley admitted that it’s a historical moment but said that it’s the people of Milwaukee who made it historical.
“The people have to own the fact that they made this history,” he said, both in reference to in-person voting during a pandemic and to voting for him.
Still, he said, given the circumstances, it’s an election that never should have happened.
“We should have postponed this election,” Crowley said, adding people should have never had to pick between their health or their duty to vote.
According to Crowley, this pandemic has shed a bigger light on the health disparities in Milwaukee. It’s always been there, but now more people are recognizing it, he said.
His focus throughout his campaign, has always been to help the most vulnerable and to bring resources back to Milwaukee. Coronavirus has further emphasized why the county needs to be more intentional about health and equity, he said.
For Crowley, his plan remains the same: everyone needs a seat at the table, including his former opponent Chris Larson. It’s time to put aside partisan bickering, he said, noting that he and Larson have made a commitment to work together.
“This is an all hands-on deck moment and we need Milwaukee County to be successful,” he said.
Crowley said he has good relationships with the Evers Administration and with the Democratic and Republican leaders, having worked on several bipartisan bills. He is also looking forward to working hand in hand with the Milwaukee County Board and collaborating with Sheriff Earnell Lucas.
“It’s going to be a team effort,” he said.
As a current state representative for District 17, Crowley plans to continue to serve his community during this time. He said he is looking at ways to keep the Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Centers moving forward.
There needs to be a deep dive on what’s being done to protect essential workers such as medical providers, bus drivers and others, he said. Milwaukee also needs to prepare for the ‘what if’ scenarios, such as reaching capacity at hospitals.
At the same time, Milwaukee County needs to look forward, to what happens once this is all over. It won’t be like a light switch where things such as the economy just go back to normal, he said. And maybe things shouldn’t.
This is an opportunity to focus on equity, to make sure that everyone has access to things such as capital, family supporting wages, resources and opportunities, Crowley said.
“This is not an ending this is only the beginning,” he said. “It’s a historical moment but now is the time to get to work.”