Four progressives are running in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary to fill the open 77th District Assembly seat representing Madison’s west and south sides, as well as the village of Shorewood Hills. While The Cap Times does not often endorse in primaries, we sometimes do so when primaries are decisive and when there is a standout candidate. The race in the 77th meets both tests. There are no Republican or third-party contenders in the district, so the Democratic primary will be decisive. And there is a clear best choice: Dane County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs.
When longtime state Rep. Terese Berceau announced that she was retiring, the incumbent and other top Democrats immediately announced they were for Stubbs, in what appeared to be a move to avert a primary. That inspired some grumbling initially. But an impressive list of challengers — Mark Garthwaite, John Imes and Shabnam Lotfi — stepped up before the filing deadline.
What voters in the 77th now face is a serious primary race that offers them a chance to judge a diverse field of candidates based on the backgrounds and positions of the contenders. By these measures, we believe that Stubbs stands out. She is the right choice, not because of her list of endorsements but because of her impressive experience and her clear potential to become a legislative leader.
Stubbs is the outstanding prospect in a field where all of the contenders are appealing.
The four candidates want to restore the funding that Gov. Scott Walker took from our K-12 schools and state university system. They support criminal justice reform, with alternatives to incarceration, pointing out that savings can be invested in education and repairing the state’s crumbling roads. They want to renew the authority of Department of Natural Resources scientists to make evidence-based decisions that will protect our state’s air and water. They want to ensure that everyone has health care — and take the millions in Medicaid money that Walker turned down. So on the issues, it's a win-win-win-win.
While they share values, the candidates brings unique strengths to the table.
Garthwaite, the director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, grew up on a dairy farm and is tuned in to the needs of small businesses. He also brings 17 years of experience as a UW research scientist — a valuable perspective the Assembly sure could use. And we like that he’s talking about establishing a state-run bank, like the Bank of North Dakota, to support needed projects.
Imes, the director of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative and co-founder of Arbor House, an award-winning model for sustainable tourism, is a particularly strong voice for taking care of our environment. As a Shorewood Hills village trustee, he also has experience as an elected official.
Lotfi, an immigration attorney and a millennial, brings a passion for democracy and a belief that, as Bernie Sanders said, we can do things differently. She’s a well-prepared and energetic newcomer who we hope will remain active in local politics.
But the fact is that Stubbs, a special education teacher, has been active (and effective) for many years — as a member of the Dane County Board since 2006. A former parole and probation agent, she spearheaded criminal justice reform initiatives, including a restorative justice court. A former president of the state Democratic Party's Black Caucus, she also brings a voice of diversity to local and state politics.
Among a quartet of fine candidates, Stubbs is the finest. Her track record is impressive, and we like her attitude. She said she wakes up every day and asks what she can do to make a difference. If voters in District 77 cast their ballots for Shelia Stubbs on Aug. 14, we are convinced she’ll make that difference.
Editor's note: Shabnam Lotfi's name was been corrected. The Cap Times apologizes to Lotfi for the error.
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