Mahlon Mitchell Launches Bid For Governor

The head of the Wisconsin state firefighters union is running for governor, joining a crowded field of Democrats hoping for the chance to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Mahlon Mitchell launched his candidacy on Monday with stops in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison. He is vying to become the state’s first African-American governor.

Mitchell made a name for himself in the 2012 recall elections when he ran against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Malon Mitchell greets supporters at Al’s Hambugers in downtown Green Bay. Patty Murray/WPR

Mitchell said Monday he is running for governor “because after eight years of Scott Walker, it’s time for change.”

“(Walker’s) already had eight (years) so now he wants over a decade: year nine, year 10, 11, 12. He ran for president, God bless him, but that didn’t go so well,” said Mitchell. “Now we’re his ‘plan B.’ We’re his fallback plan. He had his chance.”

The 40-year-old Mitchell grew up in Delavan. Mitchell now lives in Fitchburg and is president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin. He is a former Madison firefighter.

The Wisconsin Republican Party criticized Mitchell over his opposition to the Act 10 collective bargaining law.

Mitchell was outspoken against Walker’s proposal in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers even though he and other fire fighters were exempt.

“Act 10 should never have been law. But any Democrat that’s going to win this race is going to, more than likely, have a Republican Senate and a Republican Assembly. So thinking you’re just going to go in and repeal Act 10 would be actually foolish and I don’t want to lie to the voters,” Mitchell said.

Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman said Mitchell went to “extreme lengths to protect big government special interests during the recall” and now he’s “doubling down on the failed policies of yesterday.”

Mitchell joins a crowded field of Democrats either running, or considering running for governor in 2018.

Major announced candidates include: State Superintendent Tony Evers; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma; state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire; former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn; Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik; and political activist Mike McCabe.

Other announced candidates include: political newcomer and recent Stanford University graduate Bob Harlow; disability rights advocate Jeff Rumbaugh; salon owner Michele Doolan; Dave Heaster, an information-technology worker who ran unsuccessfully for Congress against U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner in 2012; and political newcomer Andrew Lust, whose GoFundMe page has a $30 million goal but no donations to date.

Registered candidates exploring a bid include: Sheboygan businessman Kurt Kober; former state Rep. Brett Hulsey, of Madison; Jared Landry, a private investigator from La Farge who ran for state Senate in 2016 but lost in the primary to Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling; and Ramona Whiteaker, a photographer from Stoughton.

Those who have said they are thinking about running, but have not registered or declared include: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and former state Rep. Kelda Roys, of Madison.

Those who are mentioned as possible candidates, but haven’t said what their intentions include: Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and Dan Speckhard, the former U.S. ambassador to Greece and Belarus and current president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief.

The Democratic primary is Aug. 14 and the election is Nov. 6. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 with original reporting from WPR staff.