MADISON, WI – Firefighter and union leader Mahlon Mitchell said he’ll run against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in a likely recall election.
Mitchell, a lieutenant in the Madison fire department, currently serves as the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin. He spoke out frequently last spring against Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to repeal most union bargaining for public employees.
Mitchell said that Walker and Kleefisch have favored corporate interests instead of the state’s citizens.
“I think every candidate realizes that, that this is not just about collective bargaining or union rights. This is about our state going in the wrong direction,” Mitchell said.
A spokeswoman for Kleefisch, a Republican, had no immediate comment. But state Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Ben Sparks called Mitchell a tool of the unions.
“Mitchell’s words were obviously empty rhetoric from a hand-picked union candidate whose only objective is to score political points,” Sparks said in a statement.
Ira Robins of Milwaukee is also running for lieutenant governor as a Democrat and Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive, and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) are both running to challenge Walker in a likely recall.
Mahlon was born in Milwaukee, grew up in Delavan, and lives with his wife and two children in Fitchburg. He said that he would continue to serve as union president and in the fire department during the recall campaign because it would be relatively short.
Sparks pointed out that Mitchell sent out a press release praising Walker the day that the governor unveiled his union bargaining proposal, which cut bargaining rights for all public workers except police and firefighters.
“The governor recognizes that what (public safety workers) do is unique and we applaud him for recognizing that,” that statement read. “Governor Walker from the time he was a state representative has demonstrated that he understands what we do and why we do it and why it is so important to our communities.”
Mitchell said that he had made the mistake of sending out the release before having fully read Walker’s legislation. He said he reversed himself within days of sending out the release and has consistently and strongly opposed Walker’s legislation since them.
“That was a press release that I sent out that I should not have obviously. I jumped the gun,” Mitchell said.