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Madison mayor, ’60s activist Paul Soglin enters governor’s race and spars with Gov. Walker

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Paul Soglin

MILWAUKEE — Longtime Democratic Madison Mayor Paul Soglin joined the race for Wisconsin governor 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 enthusiasm of the state's most liberal voters in his base of Madison and in Milwaukee that helped propel Bernie Sanders to victory in the 2016 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."

Paul Soglin

The governor was referring to the city's 11 homicides in 2017 and the closure of the Oscar Mayer plant after nearly 100 years of operation.

Walker's comments about Madison come during the same week his jobs agency began spending $1 million on ads to lure millennials from Chicago to Wisconsin. Some ads feature images of people having drinks near the Capitol and kayaking on Lake Monona in Madison.

"I'm glad that the governor wants to take off and promote us that way," Soglin said. "I just don't understand why, when it comes to building Wisconsin, he won't follow that model."

Soglin sharply criticized Walker's deal with Foxconn Technology Group. The Taiwanese company would get more than $4 billion in incentives from taxpayers if it builds a massive plant in Mount Pleasant and hires thousands of workers.

"The idea of doing a partnership with the private sector – no problem there," Soglin said. "But you don’t get into such an outrageous commitment which is simply off the charts."

Soglin said he would not do a deal "to this degree" if elected. He cited state analysts who have said roadwork around the Foxconn site could use funding meant for transportation projects elsewhere in the state.

Madison, the home of state government and the University of Wisconsin flagship campus, is also an economic driver for the state, with a 2 percent unemployment rate in November that was far below the state average of 3.2 percent.

And since Walker took office, homicides statewide have increased from 136 in 2011 to 229 in 2017, according to FBI data.

Scott Walker

Walker sparred with Soglin on Twitter last week over Soglin's record as mayor and his decision to give Cuban leader Fidel Castro the key to the city of Madison as a diplomatic gesture during one of three visits Soglin made to the communist nation in the 1970s.

Soglin, a Vietnam War protester 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.


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.

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