Sen. Julian Bradley reflects on first few months as the state's first Black Republican senator

Posted at 12:12 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 19:29:41-04

As Republicans in Madison are looking to rewrite the Democratic Governor's budget, Julian Bradley is writing his own history in the state Senate - as the first Black Republican state senator.

TMJ4's longtime Political Reporter Charles Benson talked with Senator Bradley about his first few months on the job.

These days, Senator Bradley is learning to keep up the pace of a busy budget season.

"In light of everything that happened in 2020, we should be busy," said Senator Bradley. We're coming out of pandemic, things are starting to look good for us."

Bradley's view of the senate floor is from a socially distanced desk but it's still a unique seat in Wisconsin history.

"I wasn't elected to be the first Black state senator. I was elected to be an advocate for the people of the 28th District," said the freshmen senator.

He represents the 28th Senate District - a conservative area that includes parts of Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Racine counties. Demographics show it's 86% Caucasian, about 2% African American.

Bradley won in a five-way Republican primary last year that included an endorsement from former Governor Scott Walker. He went on to win the general election with 60% of the vote to make history

Benson: Does that mean something to you?
Sen Bradley: Historically, it definitely does.

Before running for the Senate, he worked in telecommunications and insurance while active in Republican Party politics. Bradley says growing up, his family lived well below the poverty line. He traces his Republican roots to a conversation about abortion 20 years ago with his mom - a lifelong Democrat.

"We were talking about the issue of life and she said: 'you sound like a Republican' and that helped me do that research that I am a conservative," said Bradley.

A conservative who says he wants to be part of the conversations on big issues around race.

Benson: What do you bring to the table when those discussions are happening?
Sen Bradley: I bring another perspective, another perspective that I think we need.

"There's not a government fix for some of the racial problems we have, it's society and it's society that has to come together to have the conversations, and that's what we as leaders can do and we have to do it without name-calling," said Bradley.

Bradley's transition to the political arena is a long way from his years in the ring as a pro wrestler. He showed me his championship belt when he went by the name Kris Krude.

The Young Republicans also gave him a red championship belt for his November victory that he proudly displays in his senate office.

Benson: Any comparison to the professional wrestling ring?
Sen Bradley: There are a lot of characters that's for sure, there's probably even more characters here than there are in wrestling.

Senator Bradley is not the first Black Republican in the legislature. That honor goes to Lucian Palmer in 1906. Representative Palmer is not only the first Black Republican in the legislature - he's also the first African American elected to the Wisconsin Legislature.

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