The historic recall election against Rebecca Kleefisch as Lieutenant Governor has received far less attention than the Scott Walker recall election. The same is true for the candidate running against Kleefisch – Mahlon Mitchell. The success of Mitchell’s candidacy cannot be underestimated. Defeating Kleefisch on June 5 is critical to bringing Wisconsin back together, and healing the divisions that exist from the Walker/Kleefisch administration – especially with the current attacks on Milwaukee being executed by the Walker campaign. The reasons to recall Kleefisch are many; this interview will focus on Mahlon Mitchell and why his candidacy is exciting, critical, and reflective of the new political movement in Wisconsin.
Mahlon Mitchell was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 24, 1977. His family moved to University Park, Illinois shortly after his birth. When he was in 4th grade, his family moved to Delavan, Wisconsin where he remained until graduating from Delavan-Darien High School (ironically, the same High School Scott Walker attended). Following his two brothers who are also career firefighters, Mitchell joined the Madison Fire Department at the age of 20, becoming heavily involved in Local 311, Madison. Mitchell served on the Executive Board of Local 311, and was also in charge of finances for the union. In January of 2011, only about one month before Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” that became Act 10, Mitchell was elected President of the Professional Fire Fighters’ of Wisconsin (PFFW). He is the youngest individual and first African-American to be elected to that position. He is now also a candidate in the first Lieutenant Governor recall election in United States history.
On February 11, 2011 after word of Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” had surfaced, Mitchell said “he had a decision to make” as President of the PFFW. His decision, made with his fellow officers, was to stand with teachers at the Capitol in solidarity against the attacks on worker’s rights. On February 18, 2011 led by pipes and drums, Mitchell and hundreds of fellow fire fighters from around the state marched into the Capitol – which had been occupied by teachers from around the state. It was the defining moment in the protests, solidifying solidarity across professions and boosting morale and visibility of the demonstrators. Said Mitchell, “fire fighters respond to emergencies…that’s what we were doing, responding to a labor emergency and showing support for the state.”
When asked for the most influential moment to him personally, he chose March 12, 2011. The day Mitchell and the fire fighters led the “Wisconsin 14″ Senators back to Madison, “showed we were all in this together…this movement is bigger than all of us.” “The rallies really motivated and entrenched my actions…in deciding to run for Lieutenant Governor.”
As for his qualifications, Mitchell points out his opponents lack of qualifications before election, and adds “what I lack in experience, I will make up for by doing the right thing…we need someone who will bring people together and unite the state. Walker had experience, and look what he has done – divide and conquer, look where he went with that experience. We need to be working on solutions together. We have a serious poverty problem in this state Walker has ignored – up 17% among children. At the same time as he makes $1.6 Billion cut in education, yet he says his reforms are “working”?
“We have 35,000 jobs available in skilled labor – yet Walker cuts funding of state technical colleges. We need jobs – we lost 6,200 jobs last month (April 2012 job numbers, BLS/DWD statistics)- we have to invest in education and training to put people to work.”
“My first initiative would be to bring people to the table – especially in Milwaukee. To meet with community leaders in areas hit hardest by unemployment, and listen to their ideas and concerns. A plan is nothing without people in poverty having a seat at the table. I take a hands on approach to problems, and would assemble a roundtable of citizens, businesses, communities, minority leaders to solve our problems together. Our mantra as Fire Fighters is ‘ALL HANDS WORKING’ and that’s the approach I would take and encourage around the state. ‘All hands working’ also means the wealthy have to pay their fair share in times of need.”
When asked about the 2010 election, when 39% of all union households voted for Scott Walker, Mitchell stated unequivocally “…we are educating and galvanizing labor this election. I guarantee you will not see 39% voting for Walker in this election. There will be a huge sway in that vote. That would be like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”
The focus of our message is to put an end to the civil war in Wisconsin, bring people together, and all really pitch in – All hands working. When we are successful, we can then work on legislation to repair the damage done (by Scott Walker). Our boots on the ground will be the counter to big money.”
Fitting words from a Fire Fighter. “Boots on the ground” to defeat the big money of the Walker/Kleefisch ticket. The more the word on Mahlon Mitchell is spread, the more likely he is to win. Kleefisch is counting on staying under the radar by avoiding the spotlight and debates – polls show she has higher name recognition as of two weeks ago, with the challenger gaining ground. Mitchell has wide appeal, is a dynamic speaker, and has risen directly out of this unprecedented movement. He represents the best of us, and deserves our energy and support. The question is – what are you willing to do for Mahlon Mitchell – he has made it clear he will advocate for the people of Wisconsin.
Share the Mahlon Mitchell story with ten people, and challenge them to do the same – “All hands working” for the recall for the next week…