Five Years After the Recalls. Whatever Happened to…Mahlon Mitchell?

(The following is one in a series of posts looking at the players; either political, media, or activist, who were prominent or played prominent roles in the 2011-12 Wisconsin Recalls.)

During the Wisconsin Recalls, few unknowns achieved more rock star status than Mahlon Mitchell. A relative unknown statewide, the then-33 year old lieutenant in the Madison Fire Department and head of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW), became one of the most high-profile opponents to Governor Scott Walker and his Act 10 collective bargaining reforms.

Initially urged by many in Madison to run against Walker, Mahlon instead opted to run against Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch instead. He lost that campaign by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent in June 2012.

Since that time, Mitchell has been active in Democratic politics in the Badger State, but largely avoiding the political spotlight. For example in 2014, while his union endorsed Walker’s Democratic challenger Mary Burke, he didn’t seek elected office that year or in 2016.

Most of his ventures into public policy, have been largely centered around the needs of his union. In 2013, Mitchell joined forces with Walker to advocate for the end of the state’s residency rule. Mitchell wrote a letter to the Legislative Joint Finance Committee, which read in part: 

“We believe that every firefighter in Wisconsin should have the freedom to live where they wish.

“That change will have a positive impact on Wisconsin’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality firefighters to serve and protect the communities of our state.”

But as for running in 2018 for governor, that remains a mystery. Just like in 2012 and 2014, Mitchell’s name is again being floated by activists wanting to see him run. Will he run, is another question all together.

The 40-year-old president of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of Wisconsin said it’s too early to decide.

“I appreciate the support I have received thus far but I believe it is still early,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell ran unsuccessfully against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the 2012 recall effort to unseat her and Walker. He told the Cap Times last year he doesn’t rule it out when people suggest he run for office, though wasn’t sure what office that might be.

Mitchell had about $6,800 in his campaign account in 2014, the last time he reported activity in the fund.