Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Barrett Will Run for Reelection

Mayor calling supporters, plans to run for 5th term in 2020, they say.

By - Jun 28th, 2018 10:46 am
Mayor Tom Barrett speaking at the groundbreaking for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett speaking at the groundbreaking for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett plans to run for reelection in 2020. 

Barrett is calling people and asking for their support, according to sources close to the mayor. 

One of those called was Don Layden, an attorney and partner with Quarles & Brady, who has been a longtime supporter of the mayor. “I think Tom has made it pretty clear that he is running,” Layden says. “He is raising money. He likes the job. I believe he is running for mayor.”

“I’m 99 percent sure he’s going to run for reelection,” says a Barrett campaign insider. “He’s been calling people and asking for their support.”

“He’s given every indication he’s going to run,” says Joel Brennan, CEO of Discovery World and a longtime Barrett loyalist. “My guess he is going to circle the wagons in the next few months.”

Urban Milwaukee contacted Barrett’s office, noting it would be reporting on his plans to run and asking for comment and the mayor did not reply. 

It had been widely assumed after Barrett won office in 2016 that this would be his last term as mayor. Ald. Tony Zielinskis early announcement he would run for mayor, first reported by my colleague Jeramey Jannenewas seen as a sign Barrett probably wasn’t running. And alderman and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton was also seen as a likely candidate as well, assuming Barrett retired.

But Barrett tipped off the fact he wasn’t ready to retire when he floated the idea of running for governor in the August primary election. While he eventually dismissed the idea, the statement he released made clear he had no intentions of fading into the sunset. 

“I love my job as mayor and that’s where my heart is,” Barrett said in a Facebook post. “I hope to serve as mayor for many years to come, to continue to advance Milwaukee forward. I’ve still got the fire in the belly, and I wake up every day ready to roll up my sleeves to get to work.”

Unless Barrett is redefining the word, his hope to serve “many” years is telling us he wants to serve longer than the year and nine months left in his term.  

Those who know Barrett say he has no interest in retiring or taking the sort of high-paying attorney job an ex-mayor could easily secure. As the campaign source says, Barrett, now 64, has friends who’ve retired and suggested he should do the same and the mayor flatly dismissed the idea. Barrett has talked about what he might do if he wasn’t mayor, and when he ticks off the activities that interest him most, “it’s all stuff I do now as mayor,” Barrett said, according to the source.  

Barrett has been very active politically in this term, attending many events in the community. He has also been holding his regular round of fundraisers since his election in 2020, says a Democratic insider. That includes a $100-per-person affair Monday night at the Ivy House in Walker’s Point, with a $400 price tag to become a “Mayor’s Club Member.” A campaign source estimates more than 300 people attended. 

Were Barrett to win and complete a fifth term, he would have served for 20 years, making him Milwaukee’ third longest serving mayor, after Henry Maier (28 years) and Dan Hoan (24 years).  

Some City Hall insiders have speculated that Barrett has made a deal with Hamilton, promising he would not complete a fifth term, opening the way for Hamilton to become acting mayor prior to 2024. This theory — and it’s only that — arose on the heels of Hamilton’s decision to remove Zielinski as head of the powerful licenses committee (also first reported by Urban Milwaukee). The move came “amid concerns that (Zielinski) pressured business owners for campaign contributions,” as the Journal Sentinel reported.

Hamilton said Zielinski “has only himself to blame” for losing the position. 

But Zielinski offered a counter-theory, accusing Barrett and Hamilton of plotting to undermine his mayoral bid. “Everyone in political circles knows it is in their self-interest to conspire against me,” Zielinski told the paper.

The campaign source flatly rejected this claim, noting that Zielinski’s controversial style of fundraising would be the perfect issue to attack him on, and removing him from the committee chair isn’t something Barrett requested. 

Back in February, as Urban Milwaukee reported, Barrett was hit with a mini-rebellion by council members on a couple issues. The fact that he wasn’t running for reelection may have helped embolden council members. “If he keeps going this way the mayor is going to become a lame duck,” Ald. Terry Witkowski predicted.

Those problems may continue, but one thing is clear: the mayor is not a lame duck any more.  

Jeramey Jannene did additional reporting for this story. 

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

8 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Barrett Will Run for Reelection”

  1. Chris Johnson says:

    Will Tom Barrett run for office in 2020 if he is criminally charged for his involvement in the Childhood Lead Poisoned Prevention Program (CLPPP)? What about if he is found incompetent in his oversight of the HUD Lead Abatement Program?

  2. Steve P says:

    With the money I saved I plan on no longer living here in Milwaukee’s by 2020!Happy trails to you!

  3. Tim says:

    Chris Johnson, thanks for getting us the scoop from Donovan & Zielinski.

  4. Chris Johnson says:

    Timmy, the scoop comes from HUD and the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Do your research!

  5. Used to love Milwaukee says:

    Hmmm… Milwaukee was recently ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the 11th worst city to live in in the country. Ranked behind Gary, IN! Have you been to Gary, IN?!?!

    When something becomes a problem, his M.O. is to hold a press conference and put together a “task force” to combat the issue. He’ll have a few photo ops with said “task force” and a couple speeches and then… nothing changes.

    But, I suppose you could just blame all the carjackings and shootings on the high levels of lead in the water… maybe that’s why it never got fixed. Never fear, though… he’s put together a “task force” to address the lead issues…. I’m sure they’re on top of everything and the carjackings and shootings will soon stop.

  6. LenaTaylorNeedsToResign says:

    From the reporting I’ve read, his former health director would vanish from sight for ‘weeks at a time’ and no-one from his dept. even knew where he was.

    Would be nice for a reporter to ask Tom Barrett why he wasn’t aware of that with one of his dept. head reports, or if he did know, and just didn’t care.

  7. Steve P says:

    I wonder when was the last time Mayor Barrett has been down here on the Southwest side of town?Would he drive his car on south 84th street between Oklahoma Avenue and Howard Avenue?Getting pretty neat up with Potholes!I guess spending money on the downtown Streetcar gets higher priority!

  8. NWDude says:

    But he’s a nice guy!

    I wonder if Walker would bet one of his pensions on FoxComm working out. or even half the estimated job expectations

    I wonder if Barrett would bet one of his pensions on the Trolley actually running for more than 3 consecutive days without a problem. Or even half of the predicted # of riders
    Didn’t someone at UM mentioned Cincy as an example of Street Car ‘success’?

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