Image: T-shirt honoring Milwaukee mayor
The design for a T-shirt that Brew City Brand Apparel started selling in honor of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is recovering from a beating over the weekend.
updated 8/20/2009 7:04:07 PM ET 2009-08-20T23:04:07

Milwaukee's mayor has bloody cuts on his face, smashed teeth and a fractured hand — but he's not exactly hurting politically. Ever since he confronted a metal-bar wielding man near the state fair, Tom Barrett has become a sort of urban folk hero, with T-shirts comparing him to Superman or saying "Our Mayor Ain't No Cream Puff."

President Barack Obama gave him a get-well call, and some are saying the status might help, at least temporarily, if he decides to run for governor.

"That story is a great story for any candidate, and they'd love to have that," said University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin.

Coincidentally, Gov. Jim Doyle also announced this week that he would not seek a third term in 2010. Barrett, a former Congressman, has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate to replace him.

The 55-year-old mayor has been downplaying his efforts to help a woman who was crying for help Saturday night. Police say a man beat Barrett after he tried to call 911.

"I can't think of a situation like this where people would not have responded the way I did," he said Wednesday. "When someone says call 911, you call 911 — it's that straightforward."

But in Milwaukee — and elsewhere in the Dairy State — his efforts have not gone unnoticed.

A reporter for a local Milwaukee television station told the mayor that the station has received hundreds of get-well wishes from people who called the mayor a hero.

'True citizen'
Editors at the weekly Shepherd Express named "Citizen Tom Barrett" their hero of the week, saying he "embodies what it means to be a true citizen in a civil society."

T-shirts commemorating the mayor also are popping up for sale in Milwaukee, a city of 604,000 best known for its beer, brats and blue-collar historic pride.

One shirt, with a Superman "S" emblazoned on it, reads "Supermayor Tom Barrett." It also calls the mayor: "Selfless & Courageous ... For The People Of Milwaukee."

Screen printing and embroidery company Will Enterprises donated about a dozen to the mayor's office, saying in a letter it was grateful Milwaukee had a mayor like Barrett. Sales Manager Kevin Ullrich said so many people were requesting them that they have started selling nearly the same version, but with an "M," instead of an "S" emblem.

Brew City Brand Apparel also has black-and-yellow T-shirts that read, "Our Mayor Ain't No Cream Puff" for sale. Cream puffs are popular at the Wisconsin State Fair, which ended Sunday, and so far, the company has sold 150.

Police on Thursday charged Anthony J. Peters, 20, with two felonies — first-degree reckless injury with a weapon and theft — and two misdemeanors. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 36 years behind bars and a $136,000 fine.

Altercation at fair
According to the complaint, Peters said he was arguing with his 1-year-old daughter's grandmother Saturday in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis. Barrett, who has a preliminary hearing set for Aug. 27, had been at the fair with his family and had walked a few blocks away to his sister's car with her, his niece and two daughters. They then heard the woman shout for someone to call 911.

The complaint said Peters admitted having "freaked out" when Barrett tried to call 911. He snatched Barrett's phone, threatened to shoot him and the two exchanged punches before Peters beat him with a tire iron or crow bar, according to the complaint.

Peters' court-appointed attorney, Anthony Cotton, anticipated pleading not guilty initially until he could get a look at all the evidence. "We wish Mayor Barrett a speedy recovery," he said.

Barrett was elected as mayor in 2004, and won a second term in 2008 with 79 percent of the vote. A former state senator and state representative, he served five two-year terms in Congress and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002.

Stiff competition for governor
If he ran for governor, Barrett would have stiff competition, including Republicans Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann. They've already announced their candidacy, as has Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, a Democrat. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, another Democrat, said he might join the race.

Franklin said he thinks if Barrett does run, his campaign can use his intervening in the domestic dispute as a demonstration of his character. It also could help boost his visibility statewide for the next weeks or few months, Franklin said, but he didn't think it would matter in the long term.

Brad Sargent, 50, who lives 190 miles northwest of Milwaukee in Wausau, said he hadn't heard of Barrett before the beating. But he wanted more facts about the attack before drawing any conclusions.

"Name recognition would definitely benefit him, but would I vote for him because of it? No," Sargent said. "I definitely now would be more familiar with his name and what he stands for and where he comes from."

For now, Barrett has been mum on whether he plans to run for governor. His office wouldn't comment Thursday.

But that hasn't stopped people in the community from talking about the possibility.

"Well, I heard that he might be running for governor, this isn't going to hurt him," Barrett's neighbor John Knurr said with a laugh.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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