An open West Side state Assembly seat has drawn four Democratic contenders for the fall election so far, dispelling the possibility the field would clear for a candidate who could be Dane County’s first African-American legislator.
So far, Dane County Board Sup. Shelia Stubbs, Wisconsin Brewers Guild president Mark Garthwaite, immigration lawyer Shabnam Lotfi and Wisconsin Environmental Initiative executive director John Imes, all Democrats, have registered campaigns with the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
The candidates will square off in an Aug. 14 primary with the winner likely becoming the next representative for the heavily Democratic district.
Stubbs, 47, announced her interest in the seat in February on the day Rep. Terese Berceau announced her retirement. Two other possible contenders in the district announced they were supporting Stubbs, noting her election would be historic.
Stubbs has since received endorsements from Berceau and eight other legislators, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, County Clerk Scott McDonell, former county executive Kathleen Falk, 18 County Board members and seven Madison City Council members.
But since February, three other candidates have signaled plans to run for the seat.
Imes, 57, a Shorewood Hills Village Board member, ran for the seat in 2010 when Rep. Spencer Black retired but lost to Brett Hulsey. After the decennial redistricting process, Berceau was moved from the 76th Assembly District to the 77th Assembly District. Imes was also a steering committee member for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.
Imes acknowledged Stubbs has emerged with early support, but he said friends and neighbors told them they hadn’t seen much campaign activity.
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“We’ve become this low-road state with policies that are favoring well-connected interests over workers, the environment and our communities,” Imes said. “This district is too important to not have a vigorous open primary.”
Garthwaite has led the Wisconsin Brewers Guild since 2014. He has been a home brewer for more than 20 years, grew up on a dairy farm in Grant County and previously worked in biomedical research at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
Lotfi, 35, is a UW-Madison Law School graduate who runs her own immigration law firm. According to her firm’s website she has actively lobbied Congress for immigration reform. She previously worked as an analyst at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and the Wisconsin Bureau of Child Support.
A spokeswoman for Lotfi said she would make an announcement about her campaign in the near future.
Garthwaite didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Black, who said he isn’t likely to endorse in the race, said it’s not surprising the open seat has attracted a lot of interest and that a vigorous primary is healthy.
“Madison legislative seats are not just a seat in the Assembly for Democrats because it’s a seat that I always felt affords you the opportunity to be a statewide leader on issues because you have a solid base behind you,” Black said.