Statement of Senator John F. Kennedy, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 21, 1960

I shall run in the Wisconsin Presidential Primary.

I am fully aware of the risks and difficulties that course involves. No other candidate, real or unannounced, has indicated a willingness to enter any primary adjoining the home state of another contender – including New Hampshire, which is next to my own State of Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, the people of Wisconsin should not be denied their right to help select the Democratic Presidential nominee merely because their state happens to adjoin Minnesota. The historic Presidential Primary laws of this state – the first state to provide for the direct election of delegates, back in 1905 – were not designed by Bob LaFollette to be used by local or regional favorite sons as a means of obtaining bargaining power for National Convention maneuvering. They were intended to give the voters an opportunity to contribute this state’s convention votes to a winning majority for the one candidate whom they both wish and expect to see nominated and elected as President of the United States.

The Republicans of Wisconsin have frequently in the past been given a wide choice of Presidential contenders. In 1960, they will not have such a choice. The Democrats must. Even though my chief competitors in the convention remain safely on the sidelines, hoping to gain the nomination through manipulation of the convention, I cannot follow the advice of those urging me not to enter this or other representative primaries. If the Democratic Party were to abandon the course adopted by Wilson and Roosevelt – of building a Presidential campaign on the public support and confidence expressed in the primaries – we would lose our claim to that support and confidence in next November’s election.

Moreover, if I were not to undertake this effort, the people of Wisconsin would then have no real opportunity to air the issues of 1960 which so vitally affect the future of this state:

Whether we can achieve a world of peace and freedom in place of the fantastically dangerous and expensive arms race in which we are now falling behind;

Whether the farmers of Wisconsin must continue to suffer the policies of neglect and decline instituted by Secretary Benson;

Whether the dairy farms and other farms of this state can obtain some relief from the agonizing squeeze of ever higher costs and ever lower income;

Whether our food surpluses can help us build a more stable peace abroad and feed our own hungry here at home instead of wasting in warehouses at the taxpayer’s expense;

Whether we can spur the nation’s economic growth to provide a more secure life for all Americans, regardless of race, creed or national origin, including a higher minimum wage, better unemployment insurance, medical care for the aged, and a better break for the mentally ill;

Whether the children of Wisconsin and the nation can obtain safe, decent, and adequate public school facilities, with competent well-paid teachers;

Whether better roads, better use of the St. Lawrence Seaway (which I was proud to support), lower gas, oil and utility prices, lower interest rates and a greater encouragement of cooperatives can be obtained to help the Wisconsin farmer, businessman and consumer battle the high costs of inflation.

These are among the issues I intend to discuss in the days I hope to devote to Wisconsin between now and April 15. I am delighted that my old friend Hubert Humphrey will be in the primary also. His popular strength in a state bordering his own will make my prospects here difficult – but his record of honor and integrity, as a Senator, and , I am certain, as an opponent, fully justify such popularity. I invite all other would-be candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination to join Senator Humphrey and myself in this most fundamental of all democratic processes – letting the people decide.

SourceDavid F. Powers Personal Papers, Box 32, "Wisconsin Primary Entrance Announcement, Milwaukee, WI, 21 January 1960." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.