For the first time in more than half a century, most of Madison will pick a new state senator Aug. 11. That’s because Fred Risser — the nation’s longest-serving legislator — is retiring after 64 years, the last 58 of which he has represented Senate District 26.
Congratulations to Risser on his long and distinguished career.
But who among the seven Democrats seeking to replace him will best advocate for the capital city?
The answer is Kelda Roys, the former state Assemblywoman who ran for governor, the attorney, small business owner, housing and health advocate, champion for women’s rights, and mother.
The State Journal editorial board endorses Roys in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary.
Our editorial board rarely weighs in to primaries. But in this case, only Democrats are seeking the seat. So the Democratic winner next week is expected to become Madison’s next senator.
Roys convincingly touts her ability to “turn values into real results.” One of her top priorities will be keeping people safe during the pandemic. She’ll press Republicans who control the Legislature (many of whom she already knows) to finally accept an expansion of federal Medicaid money. That will increase health care coverage and help shore up the state budget.
Roys will bring a wealth of knowledge to the statehouse about Madison’s affordable housing crisis. As the owner of a real estate technology company, and as a Community Development Authority commissioner, she understands rental and home markets — and how public policy can encourage smart development.
Roys also promises to advocate for economic and racial justice, including a higher minimum wage and more accountability for police unions. Significantly, Wisconsin’s only two Black state senators — Lena Taylor and LaTonya Johnson — have endorsed Roys. So has Rep. Sheila Stubbs, the only Black lawmaker representing Madison. So has Ald. Sheri Carter, the city’s first Black female City Council president.
That’s a lot of trust in her ability to represent all of Madison, which is increasingly diverse.
An East High and UW Law School grad, Roys showed during two terms in the Assembly that she can be persuasive and get things done — even when her party is out of power. She worked with Republicans, for example, to help people wrongly convicted of crimes. And as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, she successfully advocated for rape victims at hospitals to get information about emergency contraception.
Voters have other choices in this race. Brian Benford, a former City Council member who coaches minority students to succeed at college, offers a lot of integrity and is committed to helping others. John Imes is a tireless environmentalist, business owner and Shorewood Hills trustee. Aisha Moe, who recently graduated from UW-Madison, is spirited and bright.
Amani Latimer Burris, a former journalist and teacher, touts herself as a uniter. William Henry Davis III wants to advocate for the disabled and homeless. Nada Elmikashfi, the only candidate who didn’t participate in our editorial board interviews, grew up in Sudan and recently graduated from UW.
We thank them all for giving voters a choice. But Roys makes the strongest case for experienced and effective leadership.