Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Mahlon Mitchell, a veteran fire-fighter, brought unflinching support for rail and bus transportation to Milwaukee in an April 5 appearance for his campaign to replace Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefish in the recall election June 5.
Mitchell candidly admitted that previous Democratic leadership had failed to support the demand from local communities across the state to vote on regional transit authorities, with funding determined by a referendum of local voters. He firmly committed his support for RTA legislation. "The reason we're in this fight now," he said, with the Walker administration and holding a recall election, "is because of past failures by Democrats."
Addressing a packed meeting hall at the offices of Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 998, Mitchell said transit is essential for people to get to jobs, and jobs is one of the three top issues of his campaign. Noting that Walker promised to create 250,000 new jobs, but delivered six straight months of job losses, Mitchell said he wanted to bring business, labor and community representatives to the table to work out an approach that would benefit all.
"Business is not bad" the firefighter union president affirmed. "We need investment." But when Walker split the state by abolishing public employee collective bargaining, while exempting firefighters and police officers, "we came out every day to protest with everyone else." If elected to replace Kleefish, his support for local bus systems, and high speed rail, would be a marked contrast to the incumbent's position on public transit, "When I want to go somewhere, I drive my minivan."
Mitchell, an American of African descent, recounted that his family moved from Cleveland to Milwaukee when he was a child, where his father found a better job opportunity. He later grew up in the University Park neighborhood of Chicago, then in Delavan, Wisconsin, where he graduated from "the same high school as Scott Walker - obviously we took different classes."
Mitchell also emphasized support for education, and reducing poverty, although poverty "is not a sexy issue." He is one of three Democrats running in the May 5 primary for the nomination to oppose Kleefish, in addition to one "phony Democrat" being put up to run by Walker and Kleefish campaign strategists.