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'Time to send a firefighter' to governor's office, candidate says

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mahlon Mitchell speaks July 6 with members of the regional brewing industry during a campaign stop at Hop & Barrel in Hudson. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

Mahlon Mitchell isn't fazed by the fact he's never held public office.

In fact, the Fitchburg resident said he sees it as an advantage as he makes his bid to be Wisconsin's next governor.

"We have had enough political pundits" and career politicians in Madison, the 41-year-old said last week in a RiverTown Multimedia interview.

Mitchell serves as president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin union, noting on his campaign's website that he is the youngest and first African American to serve in the role. He said the selflessness and compassion needed in being a firefighter are qualities that belong in the governor's office.

"It's time to send a firefighter in — instead of all these lawyers and politicians," Mitchell said.

He recently toured Wisconsin cities on his "Badger State Beer Tour," which kicked off July 6 at Hop & Barrel Brewing Co. in Hudson. Mitchell said the tour revealed the "red tape and some of the bureaucracy" Wisconsin's brewers encounter, which he said is symptomatic of struggles felt elsewhere in the private sector.

Mitchell is one of eight Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November. Joining Mitchell on the Aug. 14 primary ballots will be Tony Evers, Matt Flynn, Mike McCabe, Josh Pade, Kelda Roys, Paul Soglin and Kathleen Vinehout.

Mitchell first hit the statewide radar in 2012 when he ran for lieutenant governor in the recall elections, falling by 6 percentage points to incumbent Republican Rebecca Kleefisch. He said Walker's controversial Act 10 legislation, which took aim at Wisconsin's public union policies, was the impetus behind his campaign to be lieutenant governor.

Mitchell said he learned at least one lesson along the way.

"I learned I don't like to lose," he said.

Naming the state's education system as the biggest problem facing Wisconsin, Mitchell said too many communities are holding referendums to fund local schools.

"That's a problem," he said. "We're starving our school districts."

Mitchell said he would restore funding cuts and proposes a constitutional amendment requiring the state to cover two-thirds of public school costs.

He named a $15-per-hour minimum wage, expanded health-care coverage and the African-American male incarceration rate among the chief issues he would tackle as Wisconsin's governor. The economy, poverty and education are at the root of those issues, he said.

"I think it starts with actually tackling poverty," Mitchell said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

(651) 301-7867