Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Will He or Won’t He Run for Mayor?

Council president Ashanti Hamilton promises his decision by next week.

By - Jul 30th, 2019 02:09 pm
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Ashanti Hamilton speaks at Sterling Brown incident press conference. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Ashanti Hamilton speaks press conference about Sterling Brown incident. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton promises to end the “will he or won’t he run for mayor” speculation next week.

In an interview with Urban Milwaukee, Hamilton said he will make a formal announcement in the coming week on the next phase of his campaign.

Hamilton opened a mayoral campaign account in November, but has never formally filed a declaration of candidacy for the office. The mayoral campaign account allows Hamilton to accept donations up to $6,000 instead of the approximately $800 aldermanic limit.

“The most important thing for me is: are the things I care about in the city of Milwaukee being addressed?” said Hamilton in what was guiding his decision on whether to run or not.

Which way is he leaning? He declined to say. Hamilton said he continues to meet with advisors to guide the next step. Sources inside City Hall point in both directions.

The alderman, first elected in 2004, told Urban Milwaukee after a council committee held a proposed streetcar extension that he wants to see a long-term commitment to workforce development that isn’t project-based, a “strong and clear” anti-displacement plan funded and a neighborhood reinvestment fund created before the project advances.

“Every single time we have to do these things [to setup funds and workforce development programs] when that’s just the way we should be doing business,” said Hamilton. “Why not make that permanent?”

The alderman has been one of the consistent advocates on the council for policies aimed at increasing racial equity and neighborhood investment.

Hamilton has in the past promised updates on whether he will run for mayor, but this one-week timeline is the most definitive announcement he’s given to date.

The most recent time Urban Milwaukee spoke to Hamilton about his potential campaign was moments before Mayor Tom Barrett received a phone call confirming that the city would host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The two potential opponents were seen celebrating as soon as Barrett got off the phone.

Barrett and Hamilton have a cordial relationship, with the two routinely working together even as the council has increasingly battled the mayor. And Barrett has yet to formally declare for another term, but continues to fundraise and is widely expected to quietly submit his declaration of candidacy form.

Meanwhile, Ald. Tony Zielinski continues his very public mayoral campaign. The Bay View alderman announced in November 2017 that he was entering the race and took the bold step of promising not to run for re-election as alderman. “It’s up or out,” said Zielinski.

If Hamilton is going to enter the race, he’s going to have to ramp up the fundraising. Barrett has raised $168,780 in 2019 through June 30th and has $811,074 on hand. Zielinski raised $124,275 and has $572,336 on hand, including a $300,000 personal loan. Hamilton raised $85,569, but has only $68,451 on hand. A fourth candidate, Paul Rasky, reports raising no funds.

Money might not be an issue for Hamilton, though. Not long after filing his nomination papers, Hamilton was spotted sitting courtside at a Milwaukee Bucks game with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele who has shown a willingness to spend heavily on local elections through an independent fund. The County Exec made sure the public knew who was at the game with him, posting a photo of himself, Hamilton, political consultant Scott Neitzel, a former cabinet member for Governor Scott Walker, and Abele’s now-fiancee Jennifer Gonda on Facebook with the caption: “Always great watching a Bucks game. Even better with people who love this city as much as I do! Go Bucks!”

The once strong relationship between Barrett and Abele is reported to have broken down over the negotiations surrounding the public funding for Fiserv Forum. Gonda, who was dating Abele at the time, led the negotiations for the city. Barrett also made the decision not to endorse Abele in his competitive 2016 re-election bid. Hamilton backed Abele and spoke at Abele’s inauguration.

All elections of City of Milwaukee offices are non-partisan. The two top vote-getters in a February 2020 primary will advance to the April 2020 general election.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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