“In my job as state president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, I travel the state a lot and I get around to so many different cities and I talk to people …. people are really hurting. I talk to real people – people who aren’t getting huge tax breaks or huge giveaways, people who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. It’s not working. What Governor Walker’s doing is not working,” says Mahlon Mitchell. “Now, after eight years, he’s asking for another four years. Everything he’s done has not been about the state or the people; it was about politics.
“Him having all of these austerity measures is not about us; it was about them. Them being the people he thought could elect him as president. Them being the Republicans in Washington D.C.,” Mitchell adds. “It was never about us. It’s been eight years. It’s time for a change.”
Many people feel that Mitchell could be the energetic and fiery leader the Democrats have been looking for since Republican Gov. Scott Walker first took office in 2011. Today, Mitchell is officially launching his campaign for governor with stops in Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Madison. Mitchell, who in 2011 became the youngest president – and first African-American president – of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, says he has a true vision for the state of Wisconsin.
“I’m not a politician. I’ve been a firefighter and a public servant for the last 20 years. I know what it takes and what needs to be done to not have to live paycheck to paycheck or what it takes to deal with the rising costs of health care,” Mitchell tells Madison365. “I’m not a politician and I’m not independently wealthy. I still go to work when it’s my turn to be on duty. On my days off, my job is to help those who help others – by way of hours, wages, working conditions for firefighters.”
Mitchell became a prominent leader in Wisconsin after the 2011 and 2012 protests against Gov. Walker’s Act 10, which stripped collective bargaining rights from most public employees. He won the Democratic Party’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor in the 2012 recall of Governor Scott Walker, running alongside Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He ended up losing to Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch by a 53%-47% vote.
Mitchell was born in Milwaukee and grew up in Delavan, Wisconsin, graduating from the same high school as Walker. “We actually grew up in the same area,” Mitchell says. “He’s 10 years older than I am, but we went to the same high school. We obviously took some different classes.”
The 40-year-old Mitchell joins a large field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates looking for a chance to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in next year’s general election. He says he can’t wait to talk about issues.
“When you look at the economy and you look at jobs … the economy is driven by the middle class. So, when we’re doing better, the economy of the state is doing better,” Mitchells says. “We have one of the most shrinking middle classes in the country. Our wages continue to decline. Most people in the state of Wisconsin are living under $50,000 a year … when the average of the 1 percent make $933,000 a year.
“But it’s not just jobs and wages, it’s health care. We need Medicaid expansion. A child should not be able to go to the doctor because their parents can’t afford it,” he adds. “Seniors shouldn’t have to pick between paying their mortgage or their rent, or having their prescription filled. Those are the things that are actually happening in our state.”
There’s only so much time that Mitchell says that he wants to sit around and talk about what Gov. Walker is not doing of doing wrong. “I want to talk about my vision and my plan,” he says. “I want to talk about how our economy should be doing. Our wages should be going up – everybody. We need to fully fund our educational system. Let’s talk about our health care and our infrastructure – we’re ranked 49th in roads in the country. But they would have you believe that everything is working and everything is great.”
Mitchell’s gubernatorial campaign launch today will include stops at Al’s Hamburger Shop in Green Bay at 9 a.m., Milwaukee Area Technical College at noon and at Lucille’s in Madison at 4 p.m. Beyond today, he says he’s looking forward to getting out and talking with Wisconsinites throughout the state.
“We’ve always have been leaders in Wisconsin. The UW used to always be ranked in the top five in research across the country. Now, we’re barely in the top 25. That’s because of cuts,” he says. “You can’t just cut, cut, cut, and not give back. I think we can do a lot better in job creation. I think we need to invest in Wisconsin and make sure our schools are fully funded, make sure the educational system is there, make sure the opportunities are there.
“We have a lot of potential here in Wisconsin. We’re just not tapping into it because, right now, our elected officials are putting politics over people. They are putting bad policies over people. They are putting party over people,” Mitchell adds. “I’m going to be going out throughout the state to talk about my vision for its people and where we should be … where we go. Frankly, a lot of it is getting back to what we know – hard working, not fancy, bare-bones, meat and potatoes, making sure that we get our jobs done. Having a good time. A family needs to be able to go out to a fish fry on Friday and not have to worry about how they are going to pay for it on Monday. We used to have that here in Wisconsin. Our wages … along with many other things … are declining. It’s not right.”