From City to State: The Mayors Who Would Be Governors

From City to State: The Mayors Who Would Be Governors

Milwaukee mayor and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate. Tom Barrett. Credit: Emily Mills on Flickr

Today, Wisconsin voters head to the polls to end what is being called one of the biggest political sagas in recent memory: The recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Last year, Walker soured Wisconsinites when he called for the reduction of the collective bargaining laws for labor unions as a way to address the state’s budget shortfall.

Walker’s Democratic challenger is current Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran against Walker in 2010. Barrett, a major advocate for high-speed rail, has been mayor of Milwaukee since 2004 and is known as a champion of sustainability. In 2006, for instance, he created a city Office of Environmental Sustainability to outline a comprehensive green agenda.

The prospect of a major American city’s mayor going on to become state governor got us thinking about other local politicians who have followed similar career paths. Here’s a list of four current and former governors who were once mayors of major cities.

John Hickenlooper, Colorado

Hickenlooper, who became governor of Colorado in 2011, served as mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011. During his two terms in office, Hickenlooper worked to address Denver’s rates homelessness, creating successful employment and housing programs for the homeless. In 2006, Denver became the first major U.S. city to legalize the private use of small amounts (less than one ounce) of marijuana. As governor, Hickenlooper has worked to relieve the foreclosure crisis in Colorado by creating a $51 million fund for foreclosure prevention.

Martin O’Malley, Maryland

O’Malley served two terms as mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. During his tenure, gun crime in Baltimore fell substantially, thanks at least in part to the adoption of CitiStat, a statistics-based crime prevention program pioneered by law enforcement agencies in New York City. O’Malley is currently serving his second term as governor. His most significant legislation has addressed illegal immigration. In May 2011, he passed a law that would give illegal immigrants in state tuition rates to Maryland’s state colleges in universities. The law was met with opposition and will face a referendum later this year.

Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania

Serving two terms as mayor of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2000, Rendell is regarded by many as the man who brought the city back from the verge of financial ruin. Many of his initiatives, including a tax abatement program, laid the groundwork for Philadelphia’s resurgence over the past decade. Later on, Rendell served two terms as governor of Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2011. During that time, Rendell worked to bring more funding to the state’s public school system, and in 2003 passed introducing slot machines to the state, which raised $687 million for Pennsylvania’s public school systems.

Jerry Brown, California

As detailed in a previous Forefront story, Brown led the revitalization of Oakland, serving as the city’s mayor from 1999 to 2007. He attracted over a $1 billion in investments into downtown projects such as the refurbishment of the Fox Theatre, the Port of Oakland and Jack London Square. In 2011, Brown began his third term governor of California (a position he held from 1975 to 1983). Despite budgetary constraints, Brown has been the state’s leading advocate for constructing a high-speed rail system.

Tags: philadelphiagovernancesustainable citiesbaltimoreoaklanddenvermilwaukeesmart growthjerry brown

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