November 15, 2009
Barrett makes first official campaign stop in Racine
Barely two hours after formally announcing his candidacy for governor at his home at noon, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made what he called his "first official campaign stop" -- in Racine.
Delicately timed to end before the 3:15 p.m. kickoff of the Packers game, ("I'm smart enough to know you never campaign during a Packers game," he said.) Barrett showed up at 2:30 at Wilson's Coffee and Tea, where State Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, was holding a fundraiser for his own re-election bid.
Saying he is "very excited" to be in the race -- so far, he's the only Democratic candidate to succeed Gov. Jim Doyle -- Barrett said he would file the necessary candidacy papers tomorrow morning.
Asked what his platform would be, he said, "Obviously, jobs and the economy are at the top of the list. Fifty years ago, all a man needed to succeed was a strong back and a good alarm clock. But now many jobs have gone south. This is not a Democratic issue, not a Republican issue. I want to break down the partisan walls, the partisan rhetoric."
He noted accomplishments he's made in Milwaukee, including cutting $32 million from the city budget and eliminating 350 jobs. "We're going to have to do this on the state level, and at all levels of government." At the same time, he pointed to private sector job gains, like the 800 jobs Republic Airlines said last week it would keep in Milwaukee, while bringing another 800 here from out of state.
Democrats he greeted at Wilson's couldn't help noting Barrett's right hand, still heavily bandaged from the incident -- three months ago today -- when he came to a woman's aid during an attack outside State Fair Park. He assured everyone it is healing. On Friday, the last two of 10 pins were removed. "People are going to have to get used to shaking my left hand," he said. The incident helped raise his political profile, Barrett said, "but I don't want to do it again."
Barrett has been mayor of Milwaukee for 5 1/2 years. Before that he served in Congress, from 1993 to 2003. When two districts, including his, were combined, Barrett ran unsuccessfully for governor, losing in the primary to Doyle. Lehman, when he arrived at Wilson's loaded down with his own campaign yard signs, leaned a "Barrett for Governor" yard sign against the wall. "I've had that in my garage for eight years," he said.
Barrett, 55, is married and has four children, ranging in age from 10-17. His wife is a Milwaukee teacher and he has said he would not move the family to Madison if elected. But he said, "I'll be governor wherever it's necessary." So far, he's the only Democrat in the race; Republican candidates for governor are Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann.
As for his own campaign, Lehman said "we haven't made a formal announcement yet, but we are raising money. We're ahead of where we were four years ago." In that election, County Executive Bill McReynolds outspent Lehman almost 2-1, $400,000 to $218,000, but lost anyway. "I'm confident we're going to be fine," Lehman said, while noting that his 21st Senate District "is one of four targeted seats," all of which were won by Democrats four years ago, giving them control. Racine County Board Supervisor Van Wanggaard has announced plans to run against Lehman next year.
In brief remarks, Lehman also voiced support for Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, the subject of Republican attacks for remarks he made on the Assembly floor last week about Racine's County's oversight of the Wisconsin Shares program. Lehman pointed out that measures similar to the ones Mason voted against in the Assembly were defeated in the State Senate the same day. "I'm satisfied with the level of state cooperation with Racine County," Lehman said. "Keep listening to Cory on Wisconsin Shares."