Meet the 3 candidates running for the vacant District 14 seat on the Milwaukee County Board

Having sat vacant since January, Milwaukee County's District 14 will soon be a step closer to having a new supervisor.

The three candidates — Caroline Gómez-Tom, Travis Hope and Angel Sanchez — will face off during the primary April 4 special election to fill the supervisory role. The top two finishers will advance to the general election on May 2.

The winner will take the seat formerly held by Dyango Zerpa, who resigned in January. Zerpa had been under scrutiny over campaign finance reports and his absence from meetings. He was fired as a state legislative aide last year. Zerpa held the seat for less than a year after being elected in April 2022.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley later called for a special election to fill the remainder of Zerpa's two-year term that ends in April 2024.

The seat represents one of two Hispanic-majority districts

Following the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2021, the county emerged with two Hispanic-majority supervisory districts, including District 14.

District 14 stretches from West Virginia Street south to West Howard Avenue and Wilson Park, with its western border sitting along South 20th Street and its eastern border tracing I-94, the Kinnickinnic River and South 1st Street. The area includes the Walker's Point, Historic Mitchell Street, Lincoln Village, Polonia and Morgandale neighborhoods.

The 2023 Wisconsin spring general election and special election is April 4, with early voting scheduled for Tuesday, March 21 through Saturday, April 1.

Here's what to know about the candidates running for District 14.

Caroline Gómez-Tom: Building relationships, building bridges

Caroline Gómez-Tom is a candidate in a special election for the District 14 seat on the Milwaukee County Board.
Caroline Gómez-Tom is a candidate in a special election for the District 14 seat on the Milwaukee County Board.

Gómez-Tom said giving back to the community has been a driving force for her social work and civic engagement.

With her current job at Covering Wisconsin, Gómez-Tom coordinates the efforts to help more people find affordable health insurance coverage. She currently serves on the boards of the Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition (MLHC), Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (CHAW), Kids Forward, and the UW-Madison School of Social Work Board of Visitors, and was elected the president of the City of Milwaukee Board of Health in 2022. Previously, she worked in community engagement for Milwaukee's Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.

"I've always viewed myself as a bridge to people and the community and how policy is made," she told the Journal Sentinel. "I can be a voice at the table."

She said she would incorporate the community's perspective and have residents involved in every step, such as creating clean and safe parks, continuing efforts to provide accessible public transport, and addressing issues involving behavioral health and drug use.

"I feel if folks know what the stakes are and can see real representation because they can resonate with me, I think we can see people getting more involved, getting more engaged, and helping make important choices that impact their day-to-day lives," she said.

While Gómez-Tom, 34, understands the funding challenges the county faces, she wants to make sure money is being invested to help residents.

She was born and raised in Racine by her two parents who immigrated from Mexico City. She now lives in Milwaukee with her husband, Derek Tom.

Travis Hope: 'I want to bring a sense of urgency to this position'

Travis Hope is a candidate in the Milwaukee County Board District 14 election.
Travis Hope is a candidate in the Milwaukee County Board District 14 election.

A Milwaukee native, Hope said he knows Milwaukee's parks like the back of his hand. As a kid, he began volunteering in Clark Square and Walker Square Parks — an activity that introduced him to residents and grassroot groups all across the south side.

Hope, 44, has served as a community organizer at Southside Organizing Center, as president of the Kinnickinnic River Neighbors in Action since 2016 and worked on the city's crime-reduction Block Watch Council. He also won the Salvation Army Chaplaincy Program Outstanding Individual award during the 71st Annual Crime Prevention awards in 2020. Hope currently works at Safe & Sound, a Milwaukee-based organization dedicated to improving public safety in low-income neighborhoods that face high levels of crime.

Now, he seeks to translate the skills and connections into a role as county supervisor, tackling crime and reckless driving and lifting up the parks.

"I'm always trying to be involved or trying to talk to people or always trying to connect," he told the Journal Sentinel.

If elected, he hopes to set up community engagement events across District 14's parks to improve accessibility and communication with residents in the area.

"I want to bring a sense of urgency to this position," he said. "It's not just going to be a part-time position. I'm going to be immersed in it."

Travis is a father of three children and is a lifelong resident of Milwaukee's south side.

Angel Sanchez: Top priority is increased state shared revenue

Angel Sanchez is a candidate for the District 14 seat on the Milwaukee County Board.
Angel Sanchez is a candidate for the District 14 seat on the Milwaukee County Board.

Sanchez's name may sound familiar, having served one term as a Milwaukee alderman in 2000 and made multiple conservative challenges for seats on the Common Council, the state Assembly and state Senate in the last 15 years.

"I have always put at the forefront the interests of the people and I've always followed my heart for what I believe is right," Sanchez told the Journal Sentinel. "That has taken me to a lot of different races during a lot of different times."

Sanchez, 53, has lived on Milwaukee's south side since 1976, working primarily in construction since 2004.

Believing that the county is at a crossroads — between affordability, pension obligations, wages, pending service and program cuts, and looming fiscal cliffs — Sanchez's top priority is reworking state shared revenue, describing the current set-up as "antiquated" and "old news."

"If you're going to live in your home for the next 100 years, would you build something brand new today to look forward into the future or would you build a new house on an old foundation?" he asked.

"The reality is that our neighborhood, our city, deserves its fair share," he said. "I will do everything in my power locally with anyone from any party, whether it be on this aisle or that aisle, left or right, with the governor — whatever it takes. This is something that can no longer wait."

Sanchez lives with his wife and has five children.

Contact Vanessa Swales at 414-308-5881 or vswales@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Vanessa_Swales.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee County District 14 supervisor candidates to face off April 4