With the launch of immigration attorney Shabnam Lotfi's campaign on Sunday, the field of Democratic candidates vying to replace outgoing state Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, grew to four.
Lotfi, 35, immigrated to the United States from Iran with her parents when she was 4 years old. She studied law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and worked as a business analyst at Bristol-Myers Squibb and as a senior program and policy analyst at the Wisconsin Bureau of Child Support before she opened her law firm.
"A millennial woman of color with a different-sounding name might not be the first person you think of as someone who has a shot at winning a tough race for the State Assembly, but I actually think my journey is what has prepared me for this moment," Lotfi, who is Muslim, said in a statement. "It’s what led me to study law at UW, what led me to start my immigration law practice here in Madison, and what gives me a unique understanding of the residents of this district."
Lotfi said she plans to focus her campaign on supporting the UW, protecting the environment, advocating for technological updates and more transparency in government and funding K-12 schools.
Lotfi's announcement comes a few weeks after Wisconsin Environmental Initiative executive director John Imes' campaign launch.
Imes, 57, has served on the Shorewood Hills Village Board since 2012. He ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 2010.
"Wisconsin needs a solid, new direction," Imes said in a statement. "We’ve become a low-road state with policies that favor well-connected interests over the environment, workers and our communities. I’m running to replace that extreme and divisive agenda with high-road, progressive policies."
In a letter to area residents, Imes said voters deserve a "vigorous" primary campaign, and stressed the need to "empower more entrepreneurship, particularly for women, immigrants and people of color."
Mark Garthwaite, executive director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, registered as a candidate in April, and said he will make a formal campaign announcement soon.
"While we are in the midst of a long period of sustained economic growth, that output should be put to use for the public good," Garthwaite said in a statement. In a growing economy, reinvesting in public education should be a higher priority. In a time of low unemployment, wages and workplace protections for employees should grow along with the businesses that employ them. In an improving business climate, expanding access to truly affordable healthcare should be available to all so that entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams and make a good living doing it."
Garthwaite, 46, has led the organization since 2014. The group promotes and lobbies on behalf of a long list of independent breweries — including New Glarus, Lakefront, Karben4 and Stevens Point — throughout the state.
Before heading the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, Garthwaite worked as a biology research specialist in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. His brother, Phil, represented the 49th Assembly District from 2007 until 2011.
Dane County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs was the first to enter the race, announcing her candidacy in February when Berceau said she would not seek re-election.
Stubbs, 46, has been endorsed for the seat by Berceau, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, several Dane County elected officials and several state legislators.
"During her 26-year career on the Dane County Board and in the Legislature, Terese Berceau has been a dedicated public servant and a strong voice for women's health, consumer protection, workers' rights, the environment, health care reform and education," Stubbs said in a statement. "Together, we can build on her legacy and continue to fight for the values, issues and changes we need in these challenging times."
First elected to the County Board in 2006, Stubbs is Dane County's only African-American supervisor. She worked previously as a senior probation and parole agent for the state Department of Corrections.
The 77th Assembly District covers much of Madison's west side. Berceau, 67, was first elected in 1998.