Barrett announces run for governor
Updated 2:50 P.M. 11/16/2009
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett ended months of speculation Sunday, announcing his candidacy for Wisconsin governor in 2010.
With the announcement, Wisconsin Democrats have a major name in the race since Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton withdrew form the race in October. The only other candidate for the Democrats is Jared Christiansen, an 18-year-old restaurant employee from Elsworth. A primary will be held in September 2009.
One big question arising out of Barrett’s entry into the race is the initiative to move control of the Milwaukee Public Schools from the school board to the mayor’s office. Will that plan continue, or was it an idea that hinged on Barrett’s continuing role as mayor?
As of Monday, a number of politicians from the Milwaukee area revealed a new plan for MPS, which would allow for a partnership between the school board and mayor, whoever that may be. (See our RACE for Success story). But many of the community activists at the press conference, who already oppose Barrett’s plan to take over the school district, said they would not support him for governor unless he changes his position on the schools. That could be disastrous for Barrett, since it could cut deepl into his base in the city of Milwaukee.
Barrett said he is running “because I love my state and I’m concerned about the state’s future,” during a press conference in front of his Washington Heights home. He said it took him some time to come to his decision based on family concerns, the injury to his hand and due to a goal to complete the 2010 Milwaukee budget.
When asked about concerns those out-state might have with a candidate from Milwaukee, Barrett said the values of the entire state are shared and that issues such as the economy and jobs are universal. He didn’t see his ties to Milwaukee as a hindrance to his candidacy.
Barrett’s decision to run comes after intense pressure from state and national pols. While Barrett denies President Barak Obama encouraged him to run during a visit to Madison two weeks ago, others within the White House have admitted to lobbying Barrett to seek the top spot in the state. State democrats even sweetened the pot last week, suggesting to Barrett that he could govern from Milwaukee, if that would make the decision easier for his family.
Barrett’s entry into the race sets up the potential for an all-Milwaukee ballot in 2010. Republican front-runner, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, welcomes Barrett’s entry into the race, but told potential voters earlier this weekend that as a state and federal legislator and now mayor, Barrett has spent his entire career raising taxes. Walker intends to draw a stark comparison between himself and Barrett, highlighting that Barrett recently introduced his 2010 budget, which raises property taxes by 4.4% on Milwaukee residents.
Other Republicans are weighing in on Barrett’s announcement. Republican National Committee Spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, said Wisconsinites need a leader with real solutions, not a tax and spender.
“Just like Obama’s trillion dollar spending experiments haven’t produced what Americans need most, Milwaukee Democrat Tom Barrett’s tax and spend ways aren’t going to bring much-needed jobs to Wisconsin families or fiscal stability to the state’s economy.”
Barrett didn’t give any insights into the issue at his press conference, but he did say what he will do differently in this race from his previous gubernatorial bid.
“Win,” he said. “We will bring a lot more people to the campaign. We will target independent voters.”