Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor called on Kenosha Democrats to continue the vision that has changed the leadership in the state in order to transform the country’s leadership in 2020.
Mandela Barnes, the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor, rallied local Democrats at the local Democratic Party’s annual dinner Sunday night, urging them to continue their efforts to bring diverse voters to the polls during the upcoming election and in future elections as the party holds its national convention July 13-16, 2020, in Milwaukee
“We all see what a disaster this presidency has been, and we see our reputation locally in decline. We get it. We understand it,” said Barnes to the dozens of local leaders and members who turned out for the dinner at the Italian American Club. “It wasn’t about running against the old governor.”
Rather, he said it was about having the conversations that matter with people face to face and engaging with a diverse voting base, people of color, workers, the LGBTQ community and others who were deeply concerned about the state of health care, education and voting rights among other issues.
“Donald Trump will not win the state of Wisconsin again,” he said. “As long as we are leading the vision, we will win.”
Barnes said he is excited about the state budget rolled out by Gov. Tony Evers, which he called a “people’s budget.”
“It’s what we got from actual conversations that we got from each corner of the state, where people explained to us ... what equity would look like,” Barnes said.
Barnes touted environmental leadership, with clean water among the priorities, and said that the new administration recognizes the effects of climate change and what can be done to mitigate its effects and wants to lead the charge when it comes to developing markets for renewable energy.
“Our universities should be on the front line leading that research,” he said.
As he did during the campaign, he stressed the importance of expanding Badgercare to 800,000 more people.
“It’s about bringing more competition to the market,” he said.
Barnes said the state needs to regain its identity, with fair maps drawn to include equitable representation and access to voting. He said, when gerrymandering occurs, the needs of the people can be ignored.
Barnes said students should be able to go on to higher education, without going into further debt due to student loans.
In addition, he said local Democrats have a task ahead with the national convention coming to Milwaukee and said that Wisconsin must reclaim its identity as a state of progress.
“We are the party of working men and women,” he said.
In order to beat Donald Trump, he said people need to take into account the people who make up the nation.
“We are stronger than the picture that he paints,” he said. “We are more than the picture that he paints.”
He said he’s inspired by the diversity of people elected to Congress, including women of color.
“We are all charged to rise up, to do better,” he said. “Our moment is now, and we don’t have a moment to waste,” Barnes said.
Democrats of the Year
At the annual dinner, Kenosha Democrats also honored Kenosha County Supervisor John Franco and wife Jennifer Franco with the 2019 Democrats of the Year award. The couple are educators and longtime party members.
The couple spoke about not discussing politics at the doors while canvassing doors, but about people’s lives. The couple encouraged people to listen to other people, as they have learned to do.
“These conversations can really change hearts and minds, or to get them to look again, which is the definition of respect,” Jennifer Franco said.
They honored Peter Barca, the former state representative and minority leader who served from 1985 to 1993 and then again from 2009 to 2019. Barca was recently tapped by Evers to become the Wisconsin Department of Revenue secretary.
Longtime friend District Attorney Michael Graveley roasted Barca, but also thanked him “for all he has meant to Kenosha and, frankly, the state of Wisconsin.”
“He’s been Kenosha’s representative, our own treasured representative for 20 years,” Graveley said.
He said Barca’s legacy was the historic “persistence” in challenging Act 10, legislation later passed by Republicans and backed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, which curtailed the state’s public worker unions by restricting collective bargaining, leading assembly Democrats that “called for the simple rule of law” to be abided by.
He said, as as Barca faced down against those who had worked hard for social and economic justice, he defined the battle with character.
“You can oppose those who won’t act legally, openly, fairly, by simply shaming them with the quality of your character,” he said. “By simply demanding laws to be followed.”
He said Barca knew the day would come when Democrats would come back to restore “open and inclusive government.”
Barca said he was humbled to be recognized.
He said, no matter what administration he has worked for, he has been “propelled” by the people, especially local labor, its leaders, the many nonprofits that have worked to help its residents in need and fellow elected leaders.
“They’re the ones who propel me, who give me direction ... and hope,” he said.
Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser thanked the governor for appointing Barca to lead state’s revenue department.
Remembering Maurer, Siler
In addition, Democrats paid respects to former state Sen. John Maurer, of Pleasant Prairie, who served in the Wisconsin Senate from 1975-85 and was U.S. Army Pilot and commercial airline pilot. Maurer died on Sunday.
“He set such a high bar with his dignity, his intelligence,” Barca said, calling for a moment of silence to remember Maurer.
Democrats also remembered ardent party supporter and member Norm Siler, a retired city of Kenosha transit maintenance worker member who died March 22. Siler, Barca said, retired from his job with the Chicago Northwestern Railway during a strike, rather than cross the picket lines.
“He represented the type of activism in this room that got things done in this state,” he said. “Norm Siler we salute you. We miss you. And we look forward to memorializing you.”
State Sen. Robert Wirch called on local Democrats to show support for the new administration.
“We all have to work, considering the president we have ... not only for our state, but for democracy,” Wirch said. “We have to be with this governor and lieutenant governor, each step of the way.”