Madison’s longtime mayor, Democrat Paul Soglin, said Tuesday that he plans to formally launch a campaign for governor in a few weeks, which would make him the oldest of the nine top-tier candidates seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Soglin, 72, made the announcement on Twitter and Facebook. He’s been toying with entering the race since June, saying as recently as last week that he planned to launch his candidacy in mid-January, barring an unexpected development.
Reached by phone Tuesday by the Wisconsin State Journal, Soglin said he plans to make a formal announcement the second week in January and declined to comment further.
Soglin, a staple in Madison politics for more than 40 years, is known for his liberal policies, bushy mustache and sometimes taciturn demeanor. He was first elected mayor in 1973 and has held the position, on and off, for a total of 20 years.
Soglin told his supporters Tuesday that social media will play an “important role” as he rolls out his campaign. President Donald Trump and other politicians, including Walker, have tapped into the power of Twitter and other platforms in recent years to speak directly to their supporters and push their political agendas.
Soglin said he would post a message Wednesday about housing and he encouraged supporters to “like” and share it “so we can see the potential of using Facebook.” Soglin has about 3,800 Twitter followers and is followed by more than 1,000 people on Facebook.
Walker, who is seeking a third term as governor, has more than 188,000 followers on Twitter on his official account and 287,000 followers on his personal account he uses for campaigns.
Walker, 50, said in June that he would love a chance to run against Soglin, who was an anti-war protester on the UW-Madison campus before being elected mayor in 1973 at age 28.
Walker dismissed Soglin as an “unabashed throwback to the 1960s radical liberal,” and refused to give him any credit for Madison’s strong economy, saying unemployment is low in the capital city because of state government and UW.
Soglin has said that Madison’s economic growth has been driving positive numbers statewide, and that this could be a focal point of a run for governor. He has also said that support from around the state, not just in Madison, has fueled his consideration of a run.
When Soglin first floated the possibility of a run back in June, he pointed to the unlikely success of another septuagenarian, 76-year-old Bernie Sanders. The senator from Vermont, who ran for president in 2016, won the Wisconsin primary. Soglin was a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
The other highest profile Democratic candidates for governor are: state Superintendent Tony Evers; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma; state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire; former state Rep. Kelda Roys, of Madison; statewide firefighter union leader Mahlon Mitchell; former state party chairman Matt Flynn; Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik; and political activist Mike McCabe.
Roys, at 38, is the youngest candidate. Mitchell, at 40, is the next youngest.