By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Mahlon Mitchell, a Democratic candidate for governor, scored a big union endorsement on Thursday, while another hopeful closed the door on dropping out of the race to seek re-election to her current office.
Mitchell, the head of the state firefighters union, won the backing of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which represents public and private sector workers in more than 1,000 local unions statewide. It’s the latest in a series of union endorsements won by Mitchell, who also has the support of firefighters unions, Local 139 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Service Employees International Union Wisconsin State Council and other labor groups.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, filed paperwork on Wednesday — two days before she was required to by a deadline — declaring she would not seek re-election to the Senate for a fourth term.
Vinehout’s lag in submitting the paperwork had given rise to questions about whether she might drop out of the crowded governor’s race. She did that in 2014 after suffering injuries in a car accident.
Another Democratic lawmaker running for governor, state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire, declared a month ago that he wasn’t running for re-election to his seat in the state Legislature.
All candidates for office have until June 1 to submit the required signatures to get on the ballot for the primary election scheduled for Aug. 14. Matt Flynn, a former state Democratic Party chairman, is the only candidate for governor to have turned in his signatures.
Five other Democrats in addition to Mitchell, Vinehout, Wachs and Flynn, are expected to turn in signatures to get on the ballot. They are state Superintendent Tony Evers; Madison Mayor Paul Soglin; former state Rep. Kelda Roys; Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik; and the political activist Mike McCabe.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett floated the possibility last month of jumping into the race, which would be his fourth run for governor. But he hasn’t started circulating nomination papers, and the deadline is only two weeks away.
The winner of the primary will face Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November. Walker has already run three television ads as part of a $1.4 million ad buy; Democrats, in contrast, have yet to go on the air.
Walker on Thursday touted the state’s unemployment level dropping to an all-time low of 2.8 percent, which he said is proof his policies over the past seven years are working. Walker also argues on the campaign trail that electing a Democrat would be bad for the economy.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, of La Crosse, said the state’s economy is a “mess,” despite the low unemployment rate.
“Republican policies that reward corporations with massive tax breaks aren’t helping to grow our middle class or put more money in the pockets of hard-working families,” she said.