A repeat of the 2016 51st Assembly District race pits incumbent Todd Novak, who is seeking a third term, against Jeff Wright, the assistant superintendent for the Sauk Prairie School District, in the Nov. 6 election. Novak won in 2016 by a 51-49 percent margin. The term is for two years. (I) indicates incumbent.
Todd Novak (I)
Address: 202 West Division St., Dodgeville
Family: Single with two sons
Job: Dodgeville mayor since 2012; retired associate editor of the Dodgeville Chronicle, 1990-2014
Prior elected office: State Assembly since 2014
Other public service: Southwest Regional Planning Commission, commissioner representing Iowa County; Iowa County Historical Society, board member
Education: Attended Southwest Vocational School; graduated from Iowa-Grant High School
Address: E3048 Marble Quarry Road, town of Bear Creek
Family: Married with two children
Job: Assistant superintendent of the Sauk Prairie School District
Other public service: Bear Creek Plan Commission, Friends of the Great Sauk State Trail President, Sauk Prairie Economic Development Committee, SpringBoard, Plain Lions Club
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and social studies education, St. Olaf College; master’s degree in education administration and social policy, Harvard University
Why are you a better candidate than your opponent?
Novak: Born and raised in the 51st Assembly District, I’ve had the opportunity to build long-standing relationships with the people, local officials and community leaders of the area. Many of the laws I’ve authored and passed came directly from listening to my constituents. I have a pulse on what’s right for southwest Wisconsin, including taking votes, even against my own party, when I felt the policy wasn’t supported by those I represent.
Wright: My opponent and I will take fundamentally different votes on important issues facing the future of rural Wisconsin. For too long we have delayed fixing our school funding formula, finding a strategic approach to repairing our roads and bridges, protecting our water, and expanding access to affordable quality health insurance. I will bring people together to get this important work done.
What expertise would you bring to the Assembly?
Novak: My district is one of the most agricultural-dependent districts in our state. With my strong connection to the farmers and agribusiness leaders in the community, I am always well-versed on where they stand on the issues. I’ve also been a leader when it comes to writing policies and supporting our most vulnerable populations — our elderly and children. I will continue to be their voice in Madison.
Wright: For 21 years as a school leader, I have welcomed students and families into my schools regardless of need, talent, or challenge and worked to make their lives better. I’ve built powerful partnerships with parents, businesses, civic groups and faith leaders. Regardless of political party or zip code, I will serve my constituents with the same commitment and expertise.
How can Wisconsin close its achievement gap?
Novak: Southwest Wisconsin is home to some of the best schools in the state. Even with the most recent historic investment in K-12 education, we need to continue to make sure all schools, especially rural, get the funding they need in order to make sure every student, regardless of their ZIP code, has the tools they need in the classroom to succeed.
Wright: Let’s not politicize an issue that has long plagued Wisconsin. Instead, let’s bring parents, community leaders, business people, public safety officials and educators together to support all students. First, we need to acknowledge that every district has achievement gaps. Then we need to create community-specific supports to address poverty, biases, unique learning needs, trauma effects, and work to improve the lives of every student.