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Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh announces run for state Assembly

Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh announces run for state Assembly

Samba Baldeh

On Wednesday, Ald. Samba Baldeh, District 17, announced he is running for the 48th Assembly District.

Announcing the next step in his political career, Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh officially said Wednesday he is running for the 48th Assembly District seat.

Baldeh, in his third term as alder representing District 17, immigrated to the United States from the Gambia and moved to Madison in 2000. As a Muslim immigrant with an accent, Baldeh said he hopes to inspire others, especially youth, to see themselves in his place.

“We, in many cases, grow up to be what we see in other environments,” Baldeh said.

If elected, Baldeh would succeed Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, who has announced she is seeking to replace retiring Monona Sen. Mark Miller in the 16th Senate District. That race has drawn an independent and a Republican candidate.

Madison lawyer Walter Stewart, who has never before sought public office, and fellow Madison Ald. Lindsay Lemmer, who has served on the City Council since last April, are also running for Sargent’s seat.

Angela Jenkins, a former candidate for Madison City Council, is considering running for the seat.

In his campaign announcement, Baldeh said he is running to “create a Wisconsin that works for all people, not just a few.”

“As I did in my campaign for the Madison Common Council, I will bring together a diverse group of individuals and communities and encourage all to share their perspectives,” Baldeh said in the statement. “As a servant-leader, I am confident that together we can succeed and bring about the changes we aspire to.”

Baldeh said growing up poor in the remote village of Choya with little access to education shaped the person he is today.

“I know what it means to work hard to succeed,” Baldeh said.

As a child, Baldeh walked six miles to a “western” school each way. He continued school in Banjul, the Gambia’s capital city, and later attended college to study education. In Madison, Baldeh took computer science courses at Madison College.

Now, Baldeh is an IT project manager at American Family Insurance. He and his wife, Fatou, live on the far east side.

Baldeh joined local politics as an unlikely candidate while running in the 2015 City Council race. He ran in a predominantly white district as an African immigrant with no prior political experience.

Baldeh said he saw the role of alder as an extension of his community service work and was inspired to run to address gun violence in the community. Representing his east side district for six years has prepared him to face issues at the state level, Baldeh said.

“What I was able to do was to bring people together and listen to everybody,” Baldeh said.

Baldeh has identified several areas of concern for residents in his area, including school funding, criminal justice reform, affordable housing and access to health care. Baldeh said he hopes, whether elected or not, to continue improving his community.

“I am a servant leader and someone who really is ready to put his life to make this world to be a better place,” Baldeh said. “That is what my mission is."

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Baldeh works to bridge the divide between local immigrant communities and civic life, but also between the city of Kanifing in Gambia and Madison via a sister city partnership.