|Corner office available: April 2011|
Who's going to run?
That's the big question insiders in Racine politics are asking these days as they look ahead to next spring's mayoral election. Mayor John Dickert is a shoo-in to run for re-election, but who else may run for the four-year term? (Remember, Dickert is only finishing out Gary Becker's term.)
We've spent the last few months bouncing names around among political insiders and gathering input on who may be thinking about the mayor's office. Based on those conversations, and a dash of wild speculation, we've put together a list of people we think may run for the city's top spot next spring.
While this is largely educated guesswork, we did have some criteria for who made the list. 1.) Are they known in the community? 2.) Can they raise enough money ($50K+) to win?
We also want to emphasize that no one on the list knows about this story or offered any input specific to this list. It came almost entirely from the minds of RacinePost's editors, and is likely deeply flawed. We hope everyone included takes it as a compliment (we really think everyone mentioned could be the city's next mayor), and everyone slighted as a misinformed oversight.
With those caveats, on to the list (which is in no particular order) ...
John Dickert (left)
Hizzoner is a lock to seek a full four-year term, and he's the early favorite. Dickert has name recognition, on-the-job training, and a pipeline of campaign cash from lobbyists and Realtors. The mayor has his enemies, but he's still formidable in local politics. The question, though, is does he have a real relationship with voters? Or is he just the rebound candidate after a messy break up?
The City Council member best known for cracking down on city bars and gas stations may be looking for a promotion. He's denied he's interested in running, but some of his colleagues think he'd be a good choice for the job. Wisneski may not run in 2011, but he'll be a factor of the city's top spot down the road.
Count this among our wild speculations. We heard the former County Board supervisor's name pop up recently, and it made all kinds of sense. Lange has a good reputation in the community, including a record of fearlessly taking on people in power, and would bring a unique, people-based perspective to a job that's been entirely focused on development and budget for the past decade.
A family emergency kept Hill-Driver from running much of a campaign two years ago, but when she did campaign, she proved to have a strong grasp of local issues, and the ability to talk with voters. No idea if she'll run again, but with proper support, she'd be a legitimate candidate. (The only forum I saw Hill-Driver at last election I was also asking questions and didn't get a picture of her. My apologies.)
This hard-charging City Council member is spinning heads with his aggressive approach to issues such as Countryside Humane Society and the city's housing redevelopment plans. A lawyer by trade and a tireless worker, Marcus will bury anyone in PowerPoints and talking points. If he can raise the money, he may have a shot at winning over voters with fresh takes on local issues.
I don't know Jim well, but his name has been mentioned several times as a local business leader who could take the city's reins and do good work. Perhaps even more impressive is whenever I've mentioned the Merchants Moving owner's name to people as a possible candidate the response has been, "Yeah, he'd be great."
The former state senator never seems to shy away from a challenge. She ran well two years ago, but had a hard time overcoming her lack of residency in the city (while simultaneously winning a spot on the school board). This time around, with a full build-up to the election, she may be able to capitalize on her name recognition to advance further.
John Lehman/Van Wanggaard
If you're following the State Senate campaign at all you're seeing two solid local politicians going toe-to-toe for voters. The political winds seem to favor Republican Wanggaard in the current race, but you can't count out Lehman, who's been a tireless advocate for public education and on the right side of the Miller Park stadium tax issue. The loser of the Senate race this fall may actually win down the road. The Mayor's job pays better, requires less travel, and has a higher profile in the Racine community.
The runner-up last time around may be eyeing a rematch with Dickert. If Turner runs he'll have support of the local labor unions and the experience to fine tune his message on local issues. If you believe the whispers, this could happen.
The state representative has twice denied to RacinePost that he'll run for mayor in the spring. So why does his name keep cropping up as a candidate? He has two young children living in Racine, Republicans are poised to retake the Assembly, and the mayor's job pays a good $30,000 more per year than a state rep. Mason has the name recognition, and political skill, to win a local election. He may be denying a run, but we're not ruling him out.
I haven't talked to Alderman Maack, but it's safe to say he has his eye on City Hall's second story corner office, and rightfully so. Maack has good experience on the council, manages the county's emergency response department, and has solid credentials as a voice of reason on local issues. If he can raise the money, Maack has mayor chops.
A somewhat surprising third-place finisher in the primary election to replace Gary Becker, Spangenberg hinted two years ago he'd make another run at the mayor's office. A small business owner with tremendous city government experience, Spangenberg seems to mesh well with local voters. Again, it's a money issue. If he can raise the $50K in donations and hire a professional campaigner, he may be poised to improve on his last run.
I'm always surprised law enforcement officials, especially retired police officers, haven't made a run for the mayor's office. A police officer has all sorts of history in the community, but they would bring a very different view of the city than more polished politicians. Safety is a major issue in Racine, and a police officer could speak with great authority on reducing crime and protecting residents.
So you want to run for mayor?
Racine's next mayor will be elected to a four-year term on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. If needed, a primary election would be held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. The filing deadline for anyone seeking office is Jan. 1, 2011. Candidates can take out papers to run for office from the City Clerk's office starting Dec. 1, 2010. They must collect at least 200 signatures to be placed on the ballot.
Racine's mayor makes $69,400 per year, plus benefits.
For more information, contact the City Clerk's office at (262) 636-9171.
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