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Kenosha County turns red as memories of BLM riots continue to haunt voters

April 7, 2022 9:44am

Updated: April 7, 2022 5:27pm

Samantha Kerkman defeated Rebecca Matoska-Mentink in the Kenosha County elections on Tuesday, becoming the first Republican executive in decades after Black Lives Matter riots rocked the city, leaving more than $50 million in damages.

According to unofficial exit polls, Kerkman received 51.32% of the vote, while Matoska-Mentink finished with 48.5% of the total count, Kenosha News reported

Supporters quickly took to social media to celebrate Kerkman’s win, calling it a “preview of the November midterm” and claiming a “red wave is coming.”

Kerkman is expected to take the oath of office later this month and will become the first woman to hold the county’s executive seat, replacing County Executive Jim Kreuser, who has held the position since 2008. Kreuser was preceded by Allan Kehl, the county’s former Democratic sheriff who resigned in 2008 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws.

“I congratulate County Executive-elect Kerkman for her success in Tuesday’s election. The voters made their choice, and we are already working on the transition process,” Kreuser said Tuesday. “I look forward to working with County Executive-elect Kerkman on a successful transition, so that county government continues to run smoothly.”

Although Kenosha county had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the Nixon years, voters rallied behind former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. The county remained in the national spotlight after BLM protests rocked the city in 2020 following the police-involved shootings of George Floyd and Jacob Blake, Fox News reported

On the second night of the Kenosha riots, Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and injured another – further exacerbating the protestors and turning the city into “a ware zone” with damages topping $50 million.

Kerkman thanked her supporters late Tuesday and highlighted her experience as a state representative and her “reputation of being eagle-eyed in saving money for Wisconsin taxpayers.”

"I think it was the experience that I bring from Madison," Kerkman said late Tuesday, according to Kenosha News. "I have been working with the county executive for years on issues that impact the county."