GREENFIELD -- State Sen. Chris Larson announced his candidacy for Milwaukee County Executive on Monday, marking a rift among local Democrats.
Larson made the announcement in front of his childhood home in Greenfield, seeking to show that he would represent the suburbs and the city. He won a major endorsement from U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, who was a vocal backer of Larson's opponent, current County Executive Chris Abele, four years ago.
Larson said Abele hasn't lived up to his campaign promises, citing Abele's support of a state law allowing a county-led takeover of certain failing Milwaukee schools.
"His relationship with us ended the moment he got elected, when he felt like he was in power and didn't need to work with anybody anymore," Larson told reporters.
Tia Torhorst, Abele's campaign manager, said the county executive didn't have time to do an interview Monday about Larson's entrance into the race.
"I look forward to the added opportunity to talk with voters about how we're turning the corner in Milwaukee County and getting our fiscal house in order after years of uncertainty and mismanagement prior to my taking office," Abele said in an emailed statement.
Larson said, if elected, he would ride the bus when possible to work.
He pledged to hold a "fair" negotiation with Milwaukee County bus drivers, who held a three-day summer strike to protest the Abele administration's contract offer.
Larson said he would promote job growth in Milwaukee County by requiring county contractors to use a greater number of local workers and pay them higher wages -- perhaps $14 or $15 an hour, he said.
Larson last year ended his stint as Democratic leader in the state Senate and said, at the time, he had no plans to get into the county executive's race.
Moore said that Abele's support of a state law allowing the county to take over failing Milwaukee public schools was what turned her against Abele.
"It's really sad to have to withdraw your support for someone," Moore said. "It feels so, so disappointing to come back to my own hometown and really find someone who's trying to obliterate democracy right here in my own community."
Larson said he would have to examine the takeover law, which passed as part of Gov. Scott Walker's budget this summer, to see what he could do about it.
Larson's looming challenge will be raising enough money to run a competitive race with the deep-pocketed Abele. Larson said he would need to contact "tens of thousands of people" and would ask them to invest in his campaign.
"I have no doubt that Chris Abele will throw tons of his dad's money at us to try to distort the message, distort the facts," Larson said. "What he can't do is what we're going to do -- build a grassroots movement."
A handful of Milwaukee County supervisors either did want to comment or did not return phone calls from FOX6 News about who they would endorse in the race.
The county executive is a nonpartisan office, but Abele and Larson are both longtime Democrats.
The general election is April 5. If a third candidate joins the race, there would be a February primary.