Wisconsin State Journal (copy)

A manager for a ministry that connects churches and families of children with disabilities faces a teacher for an open seat to represent the 38th Assembly District in the Nov. 6 election. The winner will replace Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Concord, who is retiring after seven terms in the Legislature. The term is for two years.

Barbara Dittrich

Age: 54

Party: Republican

Address: 380 Yosemite Road, Oconomowoc

Family: Married with three children ages 16, 18 and 21

Job: Director of advancement for Cleveland-based Key Ministry

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish Council, treasurer (past); Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation, board of directors (past); Christian Council on Persons With Disabilities, board of directors (past); Oconomowoc Area Chamber of Commerce, member and ambassador (past)

Education: Studied nursing at UW-Milwaukee

Melissa Winker

Age: 43

Party: Democratic

Address: 37827 Atkins Knoll Road, Oconomowoc

Family: Married with four children ages 1, 6, 6 and 12.

Job: Teacher

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: None

Education: Bachelor’s degree in science of art/graphic design, certification in art education and master’s degree in art education, UW-Madison; nationally board certified educator


Why are you a better candidate than your opponent?

Dittrich: Because of my broad experience. My husband and I owned a local retail business in Oconomowoc until 1997. Thirteen years in the investment industry and 16 years in nonprofit leadership, as well as over a decade in legislative advocacy, have also empowered me to competently address the issues that voters care about most.

Winker: It is critical that the people of District 38 have a member of the Assembly who will fight for their interests. I will be an effective advocate for public education, accessible health care, protected natural resources, transportation infrastructure, and policies that attract good jobs with family supporting wages. My opponent supports the policies that have degraded issues.

What expertise would you bring to the Assembly?

Dittrich: A unique combination of fiscal responsibility along with a deep knowledge of health care and disability issues. Mental health care and medical care are personal for me. I will fight for the lives of our citizens at every age, stage, and ability level.

Winker: As a public school teacher and small business owner, I have broad skills including advocacy, facilitation and data-driven approach to solutions. I bring energy for collaboration that is greatly needed at this time. I am deeply committed to the health and vibrancy of Wisconsin, and will contribute fresh perspective to solve problems for the people of our state.

How can Wisconsin close its achievement gap?

Dittrich: By strengthening the emotional health of families. Our governor’s wife has been a great advocate for trauma-informed care for children, which promotes stability for kids in crisis. In addition, public-private partnerships that provide mentoring to kids from fractured homes help with better performance at school.

Winker: The state Legislature should make this a top priority through education funding. Eliminate the current funding formula that has contributed to disparities based on ZIP code. Restore funding to reasonable levels after the shameful cuts of the past decade. And as every forward-thinking leader at public and private levels understands: start with early education for optimum brain and social development of children.

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