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Melissa Sargent defeats Andrew McKinney in Madison-area 16th Senate District primary
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Melissa Sargent defeats Andrew McKinney in Madison-area 16th Senate District primary

State Rep. Melissa Sargent handily bested fellow Democrat Andrew McKinney in Tuesday’s primary election for Dane County’s open 16th Senate District

With over 90% of precincts reporting, the four-term Assembly lawmaker was leading McKinney, the Monona Grove School Board president, 77% to 23% in the district that spans from Sun Prairie to Stoughton. 

The race was just the first hurdle for Sargent as she now prepares to face off against Republican Sun Prairie Fire Department Lt. Scott Barker come November, though she is likely to prevail in the heavily Democratic district. The winner will succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Mark Miller, who has spent more than two decades in the Legislature.  

Sargent in a brief interview noted her track record of working across the aisle and championing issues surrounding legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and more, saying constituents were also looking for a "strong, unapologetic voice in the Legislature."  

"Throughout this whole experience, the message has been loud and clear from the voters and the leaders and ordinary people that call the 16th Senate District home: that we need representatives in the Capitol building that are going to prioritize what matters most to the ordinary people of this state," she said. 

Despite the circumstances of running for election during the COVID-19 crisis, both candidates held gatherings Tuesday evening for their volunteers and supporters. Sargent welcomed individuals to her home on Madison’s north side, done up with blue and white streamers and balloons, where backers wore masks and gathered on her driveway and front lawn lawn as polls closed.  

Sargent campaign election night party

Balloons reading "Team Melissa" hung with blue and white streamers in front of Rep. Melissa Sargent's house during her outdoor election night gathering Aug. 11. 

McKinney, meanwhile, held a socially distanced watch party at Oakstone, a bar and grill in Cottage Grove. In addition to serving on the school board, he also works as the community school site coordinator at C.H. Bird Elementary School in Sun Prairie. 

The seat is one of the Madison area's four open legislative districts this cycle. The others are the 48th Assembly District (covering Madison’s north and far east sides -- the seat Sargent is vacating to run for Senate); the 26th Senate District (which stretches from the isthmus to the west side of Madison); and the 76th Assembly District (covering downtown and the isthmus). 

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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