Candidates line up for seats left by retiring legislators

MADISON, Wis. — Within a matter of hours of legislative retirements, candidates announced they were running to fill the open seats.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, and Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, have both been in the Legislature for decades but are retiring this year. Both Democrats are among the 22 in the Assembly and six in the Senate not seeking reelection.

The race to replace Pope is a long time coming for one candidate.

“It was back when I was an eighth-grader in Verona Area Middle School … I’ve worked towards this for a long time, and now just feels like a perfect time,” said Dale Yurs, a Democrat running in the 80th Assembly District.

He joins at least one other candidate, Dane County Supervisor Mike Bare, in the August primary.

Melissa Ratcliff, running in the 46th Assembly District, was surprised when Hebl announced his retirement.

“It wasn’t necessarily something that I was expecting. I was looking forward to continuing on the county and village boards and working on representing both districts,” she said.

She sees running for the Assembly as the next step in public service.

“When I think about my communities and my district, I think that I can best represent them at a higher level with the issues that they face,” Ratcliff said.

In the Assembly, they might face strained political tensions, however. In an interview airing Sunday on For the Record, Pope shared the story of an education bill in the early 2000s, when the Legislature was Republican-controlled, and a public hearing for the bill

“The committee that brought it forward and wanted it passed actually changed its mind,” she said. “Hearings had meaning and debate happened, and made sense, and people thought about what they heard, and the bill did not pass. That would not happen today.”