A conversation with Tim John

Have you heard the news???

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is running for governor!

Well, that’s not really news, unless you don’t follow politics too closely, but what might be news to a lot of folks here in Wisconsin is the fact that Barrett has an opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, and that opponent is Oconomowoc business owner Tim John. I recently had a chance to sit down and ask Tim a few questions about his candidacy, and throughout our conversation I was impressed by John’s sense of humor (seriously….have you seen his YouTube channel? It’s laugh out loud funny!), but more importantly I was impressed by his honesty and his passion for public service.

When I asked John why he decided to run for governor, he started by saying he loves politics, adding that “politicians are my rock stars” and that he believes there’s no higher calling than public service and getting involved in the political process. John also noted that while he has wanted to run for office since his early twenties, the timing was never right. However, John said the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama inspired him and that he knew this election was the right time to run, as he didn’t want to “sit on the sidelines” anymore.

When I asked John what qualities he brings to the table as a gubernatorial candidate, he was quick to mention three qualities: intelligence, vigor, and leadership, and when I pressed him on how he differs from Tom Barrett, John was quick to say that while he respects Tom Barrett for the sacrifices he’s made in order to serve the public, he doesn’t believe an elected official should get a promotion to a higher level of government simply because that elected official served in a lower level. John went on to add that he and Barrett are two very different candidates, saying, “Tom Barrett sprinkles fairy dust on people and puts them to sleep,” while he “fires them up,” adding, “If you want a fighter, I’m your guy.”

John cited the type of campaign he’s running as being another difference between him and Barrett, noting that when he made his decision to run, he was told to run a campaign like Sen. Herb Kohl. John said he didn’t want to run a traditional “in the box” campaign like the campaign of Tom Barrett, and when I asked him how his campaign has been received, John was painfully honest, noting his campaign hasn’t received great support, based on fundraising and poll numbers, but he was quick to add his campaign is not focusing on money or polls right now; instead they’re focusing on gathering enough signatures to get on the ballot.

As our conversation drew to a close, I did ask John about his priorities if he were elected governor, and he said his top priority would to reduce the unemployment rate among African-American men. I noted that unemployment among African-American men in Milwaukee is over 50%, and John said, “Just think how much better things would be if all those unemployed African-American men were working and paying taxes.” John went on to note that finding a way to reduce unemployment among African-American men “is not going to be easy and it’s not going to be pretty,” and he said any approach to tackling the issue would need to address a number of factors, including finding a system that makes it easier for convicted felons to find jobs. In addition to making it easier for convicted felons to find employment, John added he wants to promote small business ownership among African-American men as a means of “supporting them where they are.”

Another issue John said he’d want to address if elected Governor was the influence of special interests in our government. John said he’d work to make everyone a part of the solution to the problems our state faces, adding that our state has powerful groups of special interests who essentially run the government, but that with Tim John as Governor, the days of special interests running things and making decisions would be over. John said he believes regular people should have a voice and a stake in their government, and that despite the fact that “democracy is ugly and not predictable,” it’s better when everyone has a seat at the table.


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