The official Democrat led effort to recall Governor Scott Walker kicked off at 12:01am Tuesday November 15th. At that moment Mahlon Mitchell, the President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin and potential Democratic candidate for Governor, was signing the recall petition at Hawk's on State Street in Madison.
Earlier in the day Mahlon Mitchell joined me by phone and shared some of his thoughts and insights into the recall effort, what role he is currently playing in the process and the potential that he could be the Democrat's candidate to take on Walker in the general election.
When I asked Mitchell about his potential candidacy for Governor he responded, "Right now everything is informal, the most important thing is collecting the signatures, I will tell you I have talked to some key political people around the state about a potential run but it is just informal talk. I have also been approached by some to consider running. Right now it seems I'm playing the role of going around and helping to speak to some of the recall trainings that AFT(American Federation of Teachers), the Democratic party and different unions are having(...)There will come a time when the people will have discussions and decide who that candidate is going to be and I hope to be involved in those discussions...and if we need a new direction and a new face I'm happy to provide that."
Mitchell has stated that he would not be interested in running in a Democratic primary. "I don't think we need a primary right now to muddy the waters. I think that would lead to some confusion and I think that would lead to unnecessary money being spent."
It is clear that the Democratic party would like to avoid a primary, which would have the potential to cause divisions at a time when the party is uniquely united to recall Walker.
Mitchell talked about the Wisconsin Democrats' unprecedented unity when I asked him if being a union president in a union led recall election gave him an edge in the candidate selection process, "I wouldn't call it an edge...coalitions have been built since Feburary that have never been there before, I think you're seeing activist groups like United Wisconsin, For Wisconsin, We are Wisconsin, groups that are actually working in conjunction with each other. So the activists groups along with labor, not only public sector but also private sector unions and the Democratic party are all working together for one common goal. As long as I have been involved in this I have never seen this before. We have always talked somewhat but I've never seen a coalition of people actually having that open dialogue like we currently have so it is good to see. Where we are at is unfortunate but (our current situation) has galvanized the base."
I asked Mitchell whether or not he viewed the Occupy Wall Street movement as a spin off of the protests that took place in Madison back in March of this year. This was his response, "I think it is definetly a spin off, I think what you are seeing is people are getting fed up they are sick and tired, we have this senseless rhetoric that comes forth from the far, far right--the conservative right, that the rich and wealthy are job creators. All of the sudden now we call them job creators, back in the 19th century they called them robber barons. I think what people are saying is that we need to take our government back and what that really means is that the government is there to work for the people for the common person for the middle class, for the poverty level individuals, they are not there to take care of the corporations. This is the United States of America that we live in and that really means something to a lot of people, but right now it feels like we are in the united corporations of America. We need to get back to taking care of the people that is what the government is supposed to do."
In the last line of that quote Mitchell lays down the ideological gauntlet. There are not many elections that will offer a more stark choice than the potential recall election in Wisconsin. The reason the protests and now looming recall election have garnered a nationwide audience, because at the heart of the debate is the central question regarding the role of government.
Mitchell went on regarding the overall political climate in the country but particularly Wisconsin, "It is unfortunate that we need this uprising because we should have never been asleep but we're up now and we have to continue to up the pressure. That is why you are seeing Occupy Madison, Milwaukee and all over the United States people are just saying they are tired of it and we got to take it to the streets."
Right now it seems the Democrats are essentially holding auditions around the state at rallies, protests and signature drives for who will be their candidate if a recall election is indeed held in the Wisconsin spring. Whether or not Mahlon Mitchell goes on to win the contest for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, there is no question that his political future in Wisconsin in unbelievably bright.
About the Author: Shaun Booth is editor of MilwaukeeStory.com.