President Obama fires up Milwaukee crowd for Mary Burke

MILWAUKEE — With exactly one week until Election Day, President Barack Obama campaigned in Milwaukee with Mary Burke on Tuesday evening.

The president visited North Division High School, a school located in a predominantly African-American ward that gave him 99 percent of the vote in 2012. The crowd, estimated at 3,547 by the Milwaukee fire inspector, filled the school’s field house, occasionally erupting into cheers of “Mary!” and “Obama.”

“This is ground zero,” said Avis Wright, a Milwaukee resident, of the school and its surrounding community.

She and Teresa Brewer said Burke embraced the president’s support in the nick of time. Tuesday’s visit was Obama’s third trip to Wisconsin during the course of the gubernatorial race, but the first time the two appeared together in public. They spoke on the phone during his first visit and met privately when he returned. Brewer said she and others would not have voted for Burke without Obama’s endorsement. She said she thought Burke had tried for too long to appeal to independent voters, when she needed to shore up her support with the “backbone of the Democratic party.”

“She needs to realize when the rubber meets the road, she needs the support of African-American women and the North Division community,” Brewer said. “We’re going to put her in.”

The women agreed, now, that they think Burke will win and “Scott Walker is going to be gone.”

Burke and Gov. Scott Walker are locked in a tie at 47 percent among likely voters, according to the most recent Marquette University Law School poll. A new poll will be released Wednesday afternoon.

Wilbert Green, a longtime Milwaukee resident, said “No. 44” brought him to the Burke event. He donned a stocking cap embroidered with Obama’s name. As a black American, he said he never thought he’d see a black president in his lifetime.

“I’m glad to see him,” Green sad. “If he’s standing with Mary Burke, I’m standing with him. I’m not standing with Scott Walker!”

Green said he wants a governor who will be an upstanding person of his or her word. He doesn’t believe Walker has exhibited those qualities.

“I want a governor for the people — not for the rich people, but the people who voted him in,” Green said.

He said he’ll definitely be voting on Nov. 4.

“Too many of my people have died for that,” Green said, echoing a point U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore drove home during her fiery speech. Moore spoke after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Barrett ran against Walker and lost in 2010 and in the 2012 recall election. Abele, a Democrat, holds the job Walker held before he was elected governor.

Moore said Walker has shown contempt for the poor and for working families through his policies. She referenced Act 10, his signature legislation that significantly curbed collective bargaining rights for most public employees, and how he, in his own words, “dropped the bomb.” She also mentioned his cuts to public education and the University of Wisconsin System, and his proposal to require drug testing for recipients of public aid.

“He tried to stop you from voting,” she said, referring to the Voter ID law signed into law by Walker that is currently on hold due to a Supreme Court decision . “We’ll never forget that.”

The president urged the crowd not just to vote, but to stay involved after the election. He said Burke offers voters an opportunity to choose a governor who puts the people, and not political ideology, first.

“As long as you work hard and carry out your responsibilities, then we’ve got to make sure that every child in America’s got a chance, and that’s what Mary believes in,” Obama said, echoing a theme of Burke’s campaign.

Both Burke and Obama focused heavily on education as a necessary building block for a stronger middle class. Burke vowed to invest in public education and not cut aid to schools.

Obama highlighted Burke’s support of expanding access to Medicaid, and she was met with cheers when she voiced her support for raising the minimum wage. He also referenced the 2012 repeal of Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act and a comment made by Republican state Sen. and congressional candidate Glenn Grothman that “you could argue that money is more important for men.”

Obama said “the bottom line is, when women succeed, America succeeds.”

Burke said her governorship would be about putting an end to divisiveness in Wisconsin.

“It means we’re all on the same team. We’re proud—” she paused, interrupted by a crowd chanting her name. “We are all proud Wisconsinites, proud Wisconsinites first and foremost. We have work to do. We need a new direction. I will guarantee that as governor I will not stop working until Wisconsin is better for you and for your families.”

Brewer and Wright said the issues most important to them are “jobs, health care and education.”

“We want the same things as everyone else,” Brewer said. “We want to have jobs, decent housing, health care, equal pay for equal work, good homes, safe neighborhoods and high-performing schools.”

Of the neighborhood surrounding North Division, Brewer and Wright said it’s depressed economically, underserved and underrepresented.

They said the community’s voters will deliver for Burke, but they’ll expect her to deliver for them if she is elected.

Burke spoke to that when she addressed the crowd.

“A candidate is only as strong as the people who are standing right there with them,” she said.

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