A long list of candidates is set to compete in an August primary for four open Madison-area legislative seats, a once-in-a-generation shot for an entirely new crop of Madison-area leaders to head to the Capitol.
At least sixteen candidates have provided an adequate number of nomination signatures to get on the ballot for the August 11 primary after four area legislators, in a rare occurrence, decided not to seek re-election.
“(It’s) completely unprecedented to have these many local races with these many candidates,” said Stuart Levitan, a local historian, author and former Dane County Board supervisor. “Entirely unprecedented. It’s a new generation.”
This year, Sens. Fred Risser, D-Madison, and Mark Miller, D-Monona; and Reps. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, and Chris Taylor, D-Madison, announced they would not seek another term in office. The vacancies of Madison-area seats come as several candidates have announced their departures from the Republican-controlled state Senate.
At least seven incumbents aren’t seeking re-election. Besides Risser and Miller, those senators include Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who is running for Congress, and Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who has joined the Dairyland Power Cooperative as a lobbyist.
Republicans currently control the Senate 19-14 and control the Assembly 63-36.
For the four heavily Democratic Madison-area seats where the incumbent isn’t running, the winners of the August 11 Democratic primary will almost certainly win their seats in the November general election. The four candidates who win in November will likely have the name recognition to stay in those positions for as long as they’d like.
“When a seat that is a lifetime seat opens up, yes, you’re going to get a lot of candidates,” Levitan said. “This is their chance, this is the only chance they’ve got.”
To get on the August ballot, candidates for Senate need 400 to 800 valid signatures, while candidates for Assembly need 200 to 400. The validity of signatures can be challenged and a candidate may lose ballot access if total valid signatures dips below the required amount. The candidates cleared for the August ballot may change as the Wisconsin Elections Commission updates its list.
Senate District 26
Senate District 26 spans most of the city of Madison, including the Isthmus and West Side. Risser has represented the district for decades. He was first elected in 1962, and announced his retirement earlier this year. The candidates who garnered enough nomination signatures to be placed on the ballot are all Democrats:
- William Henry Davis III, who ran an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2018.
- Kelda Roys, who served in the Assembly from 2009 to 2013 and ran an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018.
- Brian Benford, who served on the Madison Common Council and is a coach at the UW Odyssey Project, which helps people pursue higher education.
- Aisha Moe, a recent UW-Madison graduate who has worked as a Capitol staffer and served as a volunteer for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Gov. Tony Evers.
- Nada Elmikashfi, a recent UW-Madison graduate and political organizer who held roles in the Capitol.
- John Imes, executive director and co-founder of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative.
- Amani Latimer Burris.
Senate District 16
Senate District 16 covers Monona, eastern Madison and the area east of Madison. Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, has represented the district since 1999 and announced his retirement this year. The candidates cleared for the August ballot are:
- Andrew McKinney, a Democrat and Monona Grove School Board president.
- Melissa Sargent, a Democrat and current state representative for Madison’s 48th district.
- Scott Barker, a Republican and Sun Prairie Fire Department lieutenant.
Assembly District 48
Assembly District 48 covers north and east Madison as well as the village of Maple Bluff. Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, currently represents the district and is not seeking re-election in order to run for state Senate. The candidates cleared for the August ballot are:
- Jason Vangalis, a Democrat who works as a senior business retention and expansion specialist.
- Lindsay Lemmer, a Democrat who serves on the Madison Common Council.
- Walter Stewart, a Democrat and Madison attorney.
- Samba Baldeh, a Democrat and member of the Madison Common Council.
- Samuel Anderson, a Republican.
Assembly District 76
Assembly District 76 covers most of Madison’s isthmus and some of Madison’s north side. Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, currently represents the district and isn’t seeking re-election. The candidates cleared for the August ballot are:
- Marsha Rummel, a Democrat and member of the Madison Common Council.
- Nicki Vander Meulen, a Democrat, attorney and Madison School Board member.
- Francesca Hong, a Democrat and Madison restaurateur.
- Ali Maresh, a Democrat and mental health advocate.
- Heather Driscoll, a Democrat and former Dane County Board candidate.
- Tyrone Cratic Williams, a Democrat and police officer.
- Dewey Bredeson, a Democrat and commercial realtor.
- Patrick Hull, a Republican.
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