Meet the candidates for Wisconsin Assembly seat 76, the isthmus’ representation in the state Legislature

MADISON, Wis. — It’s a crowded field for one Madison Assembly seat that’s up for grabs this year.

With Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor moving on to the circuit court, there are seven Democrats hoping to take her spot representing the isthmus at the capitol: Heather Driscoll, a community advocate and activist; Dewey Bredeson, the owner of a real estate company; Tyrone Cratic Williams, a police officer; Francesca Hong, a small business owner and activist; Nicki Vander Meulen, a lawyer and member of the Madison Metropolitan School Board; Marsha Rummel, a Madison alderperson; and Ali Maresh, a mental health advocate.

Driscoll said she sees climate change as something the state needs to take immediate action on. She also supports legalizing marijuana and expanding access to affordable healthcare.

“With healthcare people I loved died due to lack of adequate or affordable healthcare,” she said. “My dad died from gun suicide when I was two and a half years old due to a mental health crisis and easy access to firearms, and my aunt died from hemorrhaging from a miscarriage without health insurance.”

Williams said his position and experience as a Black, male police officer puts him in a unique position when talking criminal justice reform with other legislators.

“I’m calling to really reform and redefine what it really is that the role of the officer should be,” he said.

Williams also said he brings experience being a workforce development and financial literacy expert.

Hong runs a restaurant that had to shut down during the coronavirus, and she said the state government needs to be able to control the virus and response to lessen the blow to small businesses. She also wants to legalize cannabis, which she said would help with tax revenue shortfalls from the coronavirus. As an activist, she also wants to see incremental reform and eventual abolition of the police.

“It starts with reform, but it really needs to be pushed toward abolition,” she said. “And we have to look at social services, funding jobs funding mental health services for communities to start healing.”

Vander Meulen said she is set apart from her fellow candidates in that she is the only lawyer of the bunch. The MMSD school board member has voted to remove school resource officers, and she said she wants to bring equity to education and the workplace.

“I want to get rid of the sub minimum wage,” she said. “Currently we pay the disabled four cents an hour because we’re exempt from the Fair Wage Labor Act.”

If elected, Vander Meulen said she would be the first openly autistic to serve in the state Legislature.

Maresh said she got in the race to improve the mental health of people in the community. She said she considers herself a progressive who wants to work with Republicans to bring about change, including establishing mental health supports for the years following the coronavirus pandemic.

“We talk about emotional pain and stress,” she said. “We’re all feeling that, and we have to think about the long-term implications of living during this time period and that we’re going to need some additional support.”

Bredeson and Rummel did not return a request for comment.

The primary for this seat is Aug. 11. The winner will go on to face Republican Patrick Hull in November.