Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mahlon Mitchell joined the College Democrats of the University of Wisconsin Tuesday to address his major issues as a gubernatorial candidate and discussed Wisconsin’s political environment heading into the 2018 elections.

Mitchell was born in Milwaukee  and grew up in Delavan, until he moved to Madison to be a firefighter. Now on his 21st year on the job, Mitchell serves as the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin — a statewide labor union for Wisconsin’s firefighters.

Throughout his talk, Mitchell highlighted his priorities as a candidate for governor, which largely include improving the economy and making college and health care affordable.

Mitchell said everyone needs a fair chance to advance their future, especially considering how many under privileged kids there are in Wisconsin.

To increase college affordability, Mitchell described a plan for people who go to the UW system and stay in Wisconsin.

He outlined a student loan forgiveness program, in which they could get two years of free college tuition. But in repayment, students starting in sixth grade would do community service to give back to their community and earn their scholarship.

“We need to do everything in our power to make sure that college is affordable, make sure that K-12 education is fully-funded, that our teachers want to be teaching again,” Mitchell said. “We need to do everything we can to protect our children.”

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In reference to keeping children safe, Mitchell said he believes in common sense gun laws for Wisconsin. While people should have access to hunting rifles, Mitchell said people don’t need to have access to AR-15 guns.

Mitchell also referenced universal background checks, 48-hour cool down periods and banning people convicted of abuse from owning a gun.

Mitchell also addressed the opioid crisis in Wisconsin. To combat it, he said the government has to get to the root of the problem — which he believes lies in pharmaceutical companies.

“As a firefighter, I respond to a lot of calls where we have young kids and a lot of people even on campus that get caught up in one or two nights of doing heroin and that’s it. And it’s hard to come back from that,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a crime to be addicted, but we need to have more treatment programs and prevention programs.”

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Mitchell also confirmed his support of legalization of marijuana. He said the revenue brought in could go to support programs for combating the opioid crisis in Wisconsin.  

Mitchell said his campaign focuses on topics which affect the general population every day. He said his campaign addresses issues which would be talked about in the homes of firefighters throughout the state, as they affect everyone.

Mitchell believes that he is the ideal candidate for the position because, as he said, it is time for a change in Wisconsin.

“As firefighters, we respond to people on the worst days of their lives. When they are at their worst, we have to be at our best,” Mitchell said. “As a firefighter, my job is to take care of other people and we need to bring that same type of leadership back to the executive branch.”

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At the end of his talk, Mitchell said he will support whichever Democratic candidate wins in August.

As for winning the nomination, Mitchell believes it will take a lot of hard work and he doesn’t like to talk about the potential of a “blue wave” in Wisconsin.

“A ‘blue wave’ tends to make people believe that they can sit back and it will happen without doing the hard work,” Mitchell said. “I think it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication, meetings like this and people getting out on campus.”