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Old fashioned rail campaign: Goyke presses for dedicated transit funding, RTA

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Evan Goyke, the only candidate in the Democratic primary for the 18th assembly district who has emphasized dedicated funding for public transit in his campaign, held his final event before Tuesday’s primary election in a restored railroad car on the tracks behind Milwaukee’s Amtrak station Saturday August 11.

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The car originally ran on the Frisco rail line out of Kansas City, said current owner Clark Johnson, who hosted the event. When the company got out of the passenger rail business in 1965, it was sold to Canadian National, then to Via, and in 1982 was restored by the Milwaukee Rail Car Corporation, occupying space in the former Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works facility at 37th and Villard. The Iron Works had ceased operation during the industrial depression that marked Ronald Reagan’s first term as president.

Milwaukee 4th district alderman Bob Baumann, who initiated the Rail Car Corporation, recalled that it occupied two large bays totaling 87,000 square feet out of the Iron Works’s 300,000 square feet. The restored car made its maiden run in 1984, and is currently rented out with a two-person crew attached to Amtrak trains.

Goyke’s Harry-Truman-style speech to an enthusiastic crowd, from the platform at one end of the car, focused on a more immediate need: a regional transit authority to provide dedicated funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System and other bus systems in communities across the state. Not very far west of the rail station where he spoke, Goyke reminded voters, is a neighborhood traditionally named Piggsville, which used to have a bus line running through the area before it was eliminated by former county executive Scott Walker’s budget plans.

“Now people have to walk to 35th Street or Wisconsin Avenue” to find a bus stop he expounded. “And if you know the topography, that means walking up a very long hill, and if you can’t do that in the winter, you just stay home, or call a cab, or ask your family or friends to come get you.”

Joining Goyke on the platform was Chris Rockwood, running as a Democrat in the 14th assembly district, challenging Republican incumbent Dale Kooyenga. The district includes parts of Wauwatosa, Brookfield, Elm Grove, and a corner of West Allis It is generally considered a Republican-leaning district. Rockwood believes he can win, “it’s hard, but I’m not running as a sacrificial lamb.”

Running in a field of several Democrats to fill the seat of retiring assembly representative Tamara Grigsby, Goyke praised his rivals in the primary election for a “clean, very collegiate campaign,” but warned that “something not so nice” has been injected into the election from out of state. An organization calling itself “American Federation for Children Action Fund” which affirms in fine print that it is “Not authorized by any candidate” has spent $42,000 to support one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, Jarrett Fields.

That is not Fields’s fault, Goyke assured listeners, but the AFC, founded by Republicans in Michigan, had taken a private poll, found a lot of undecided voters, and funded multiple mailings featuring people from Los Angeles (who are paid to appear in photos under the headline “We Stand With…” whatever candidate AFC cares to support). Goyke also noted the “neighborhood” scenes in the AFC mailings, none of which are pictures taken in Milwaukee. “Have you ever seen a pink fire hydrant in Milwaukee?” he asked, pointing one out in one of the photos. His own literature, he added, features “people from my neighborhood” and local community leaders in Milwaukee.

The state Government Accountability Board has routinely emailed to all candidates reports AFC has spent almost $102,000 in support of five local candidates: Elizabeth Coggs, Jason and Jarrett Fields, Tracy Dent, and Millie Coby, who is challenging assembly representative Sandy Pasch, a hero to most Democrats for her challenge to state senator Alberta Darling during the 2011 recall elections.

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