Four solid candidates are seeking an open 77th Assembly District seat in Tuesday’s election, hoping to represent Madison’s West and South sides in the Legislature.
All of them are up to the job.
But Shelia Stubbs outshines her competition with a strong record of accomplishment and laser-like focus on criminal justice issues.
The State Journal editorial board endorses Stubbs in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, which will decide the race because no Republicans or independents are running for the office.
A Dane County Board member, immigration lawyer, environmental advocate and brewery lobbyist are vying in the Aug. 14 primary to represent Madison's West and South sides.
Criminal justice reform enjoys bipartisan support at the state Capitol, with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, among those seeking smarter ways to rehabilitate and train offenders for jobs. Wisconsin has one of the highest incarceration rates for black people in the country.
Stubbs understands the challenge better than most, and could quickly become a leading advocate for change. She’s all for holding criminals accountable, especially violent criminals. But she speaks convincing of the need to address addictions, mental illness and illiteracy.
Stubbs has worked on the front lines of the criminal justice system as a probation and parole officer. She’s also an educator who knows the importance of getting to young people early with help and encouragement.
Stubbs has served 12 years on the Dane County Board, representing Madison’s South Side. She helped create a community court that lets young, low-level offenders avoid criminal records if they complete community service, pay restitution and stay out of trouble. Stubbs voted for a new Dane County Jail, which wasn’t popular with some of her constituents. But it was the responsible thing to do, given unsafe conditions in outdated cells, and the need for on-site mental health services.
Stubbs grew up in Beloit and moved with her mother to the troubled Simpson Street neighborhood in Madison decades ago. She helped turn it around, becoming the president of what is now the Bridge Lake Point Neighborhood Association. She’s worked to find creative and positive activities for young people, and taught mothers to read. She pushed the county to require sexual harassment training for all employees, and became the first black woman to serve on the Wisconsin Counties Association Board.
Stubbs backs universal background checks, better data collection and other sensible steps to deter gun violence. She also wants to break the cycle of trauma that leads to many shootings. The solution must include a public health response, not just police.
Though the Democratic Party establishment is behind Stubbs in this race, she’s shown flashes of independence, including meeting with a realtors group other candidates snubbed.
“It’s not about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about representing the state of Wisconsin,” Stubbs told our editorial board.
Her opponents — scientist and Wisconsin Brewers Guild leader Mark Garthwaite, immigration lawyer Shabnam Lotfi, and Shorewood Hills trustee and environmentalist John Imes — all show promise.
But Stubbs’ priorities, experience and ability to get things done make her the best choice for Democratic voters on Tuesday.