“If you don’t feel safe in your home, you don’t want to stay here, and you’re not going to want to raise your family here, and work here, and retire here,” -Samantha Kerkman
Kenosha County’s newly elected county executive says connecting with people – and connecting with their biggest worry – helped sweep her into office.
Samantha Kerkman spoke with News Talk 1130 WISN’s Jay Weber Friday morning. She credited her victory, the first for a Republican in Kenosha County, to a grassroots campaign and listening to voters who said they want to feel safe.
“It’s been two years, and it’s been really difficult dealing with COVID and then we had the riots and civil unrest down here. People have been through so much,” Kerkman explained. “The issue of public safety resonated with everybody. It didn’t matter if you were on the east side of the county or the west side of the county, public safety hands down was that key issue.”
Her comments can be heard on Weber’s podcast, listen here.
Parts of the city of Kenosha burned during the riots that followed Jacob Blake’s shooting in August of 2020. The violence didn’t end until after Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people and wounded a third.
Kerkman said people wanted to feel safe again.
“If you don’t feel safe in your home, you don’t want to stay here, and you’re not going to want to raise your family here, and work here, and retire here,” Kerkman added.
It wasn’t all the Kenosha riots from two years ago. Kerkman said there’s been an uptick in violence over the past two years, including home invasions and shootings.
Kenosha County is seen as a bellwether for the state. Voters there went for every Democratic presidential candidate from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump. But the county swung for Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
Kerkman said her victory was not part of a sudden “red-flip,” but was a result of years of voters shifting their party loyalties.
“Back in the day, Paul Ryan got elected in 1998 and I got elected in 2000,” Kerkman told Weber. “We had a Republican sheriff, Dave Best, and everybody else had been a Democrat. But it was slowly moving that direction.”
Kerkman is currently a state representative from Salem Lakes. She said she will take some time to transition from the State Assembly to the county. By law, she has 60 days to leave her Assembly seat.
Voters in Kenosha County on Tuesday elected Kerkman, their first-ever Republican County chairman in the first local election since the 2020 riots that burned parts of the city of Kenosha to the ground.
Samantha Kerkman beat Clerk of Courts Rebecca Matoska-Mentink by nearly 800 votes.