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Mahlon Mitchell

Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell said he would significantly increase funding for public schools but did not say he would end the state's four voucher programs.

Mitchell said cuts to public education under Walker have created a need for "alternative schools," referring for private voucher schools and charter schools, and abruptly ending the voucher programs would be disruptive for families. But he also said he public dollars should go to public schools.

Voters in the Democratic gubernatorial primary have several candidates to choose from for the nomination to run against incumbent Governor Scott Walker. Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell feels his career experience makes him the right choice.

In his role as President of Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, Mitchell said he has worked with an ideologically diverse group of individuals and is capable of garnering bipartisan support for legislation. “It takes a lot of work,” Mitchell said. “It takes a lot of creative compromise, as opposed to constant conflict.”

Mitchell anticipates if he were to win the nomination and general election, he would still be working with a Republican state assembly after the 2018 midterms. He is confident he could still be successful under those circumstances. “At the end of the day, I’m a realist, not an idealist,” Mitchell said. “In my opinion you have to be progressive, productive and pragmatic.” In his view, those three values must be balanced in order to be efficient. “You have to be able to get things done when you’re dealing with politics.”

Mitchell was endorsed by Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, Nov. 13.

“After eight years of Governor Walker’s failed leadership, it’s time to turn the page,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who has a daughter at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh called Walker’s record on record on public education “terrible.”

Mitchell said if he does not win the Democratic nomination, he would endorse the candidate who does. “The other candidates in the race, I respect and I like,” Mitchell said. “But I think we need something different to defeat Walker this time.”

Mitchell said he felt after running for president in 2016, Walker viewed the governorship of Wisconsin as “his contingency plan.” If elected governor, Mitchell said he would be in Wisconsin for the long term.

“I represent a union of over 4,000 members,” Mitchell said. “They have elected me now three times by acclamation.”

The recent Foxconn deal was a point of criticism for Mitchell. “It’s a bad deal, there’s no bank that would give you that deal,” Mitchell said. “But the deal is here, and we have to do what we can to ensure that Foxconn is transparent and accountable to the taxpayer.”

If elected, Mitchell hopes to focus on opportunities for Wisconsinites. “We need to not leave people behind, and that’s why I’m running,” Mitchell said.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary is scheduled for Aug. 14.

You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl