By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Longtime Democratic Madison Mayor Paul Soglin joined the race for Wisconsin governor on Wednesday, immediately tying Republican Gov. Scott Walker with President Donald Trump and attacking both of them as violating and undermining American principles of fairness and equality.
Soglin became the ninth top-tier Democrat in a crowded field that will square off in the August primary. The winner will take on Walker as he seeks a third term in November in what will be his first race since his failed presidential run.
Soglin, 72, hoped to tap into the same sort enthusiasm from liberal voters that helped propel Bernie Sanders to victory in 2016 in the Wisconsin Democratic primary.
Walker sent out a fundraising plea within minutes of Soglin’s announcement with the subject line “Not another Bernie.” And he took to Twitter, saying “The last thing we need is more Madison in our lives. @Paulsoglin is the latest extreme liberal who wants to take our state backward — just like he did in Madison, where businesses have left and murders have gone up. We want to go forward.”
The tweet fits with Walker’s long record of railing against Madison’s famously liberal politics. But Walker’s attack on Madison came the same week his economic-development agency began a $1 million ad campaign targeting young workers in Chicago, touting Madison and other Wisconsin cities as a better place to live.
Walker’s campaign noted a pair of business departures under Soglin’s time as mayor, including the closing of the Oscar Mayer plant after nearly 100 years of operation. But Madison, the home of state government and the University of Wisconsin flagship campus, is also an economic engine for the state. Its unemployment rate of 2 percent in November was far below the state average of 3.2 percent.
The 11 homicides that took place in Madison last year were the most on record. Since Walker took office, homicides statewide have increased from 138 in 2011 to 230 in 2016, which was the most recent year for which such data were available.
Walker sparred with Soglin on Twitter last week over Soglin’s record as mayor and his decision to give the Cuban leader Fidel Castro the key to the city of Madison as a diplomatic gesture during one of the three visits that Soglin made to the communist country in the 1970s.
Soglin, who protested the Vietnam War on the UW-Madison campus as a student in the 1960s, was elected mayor in 1973. He’s served off and on in that position for 20 years since then and has been in that office since 2011.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Soglin said neither Trump nor Walker believes in the principles of “equal justice under the law.”
“They do not cherish our heritage and, in fact, they violate and undermine it every day,” Soglin said.
Soglin faulted Walker for not standing up against the recently passed federal tax overhaul, calling it the “biggest tax fraud in our country’s history” and saying it will help the richest 1 percent and hurt everyone else.
He criticized Walker’s seven-year record as governor, saying he’s undermined public schools, allowed the state’s roads to deteriorate and hasn’t done enough to expand high-speed internet to rural parts of the state.
Soglin also attacked Walker for enacting the state’s voter-identification law and signing a $3 billion tax-incentive plan for the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group, which is building a display screen manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin.
Soglin said the state and local incentives for Foxconn, which could amount to $4 billion in total, would be better spent on public education, improving the state’s transportation system and investing in small businesses.
The Wisconsin Republican Party responded by launching its own anti-Soglin website, accusing the mayor of being a radical who has spent five decades advocating for socialist ideologies.