Barrett Will Run for Reelection
Mayor calling supporters, plans to run for 5th term in 2020, they say.
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.”
It had been widely assumed after Barrett won office in 2016 that this would be his last term as mayor. Ald. Tony Zielinski‘s early announcement he would run for mayor, first reported by my colleague Jeramey Jannene, was 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.
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.
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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