University of Wisconsin junior Ashok Kumar announced his candidacy for Dane County Supervisor for District 5 Thursday.

Ald. Austin King, District 8, who is also an honorary chairman for the campaign, said Kumar is certainly a favorite to replace Echnaton Vedder on the county board.

"Ashok has got to be the frontrunner," King said. "He will certainly be the consensus progressive candidate, and we've never had anything but a progressive represent this district."

According to Kumar, his experience as a campus leader, his membership on the Associated Students of Madison his freshman year, his position as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and his efforts as a member of the Student Labor Action Coalition have prepared him to represent District 5 on the county board.

"My political activism has always involved organizing people at a local level to influence people in power," Kumar said. "People have suggested to me that I cut out the middle man and become the person whose vote on certain issues will bring the change."

King said Kumar would be an excellent representative of District 5 and would aid his constituents, some of whom are students.

"Ashok is very popular with the frats, the co-ops and residents of Eagle Heights," King said. "I know he has the right set of values to be an elected official. He is not afraid to lay himself out for something he believes in, either. He has the right temperament to bring diverse support on issues he is pushing."

Kumar said Vedder, who is not running for re-election in 2006, has expressed support for his candidacy and will serve as Kumar's campaign treasurer.

"Echnaton served the community loyally for eight years," Kumar said, adding Vedder's support is encouraging.

Vedder said he would like to see Kumar deal with racial inequality in regard to incarcerations in Dane County jails. And Kumar said, if elected, that would be one of his priorities.

"One of my main goals will be to deal with the racial inequality in the criminal justice system," Kumar said. "Racism exists in our community. Dane County has a terrible black-to-white incarceration rate. That's something we need to do something about."

Kumar added his position as a supervisor would enable him to have some influence over the Dane County Sheriff's Office. In this position, he said he could work more with the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

If elected, Kumar said he plans to work on expanding tenants' rights, promote equality for low-income tenants and increase human services funding. This work would address problems such as sexual assault and dating violence, he said.

"We have a shoestring budget. It will be a lot of work getting funding for my goals, but I'm up to the task," Kumar said. "We may just have to knock on even more doors to gain support."

As of Thursday, there is still no competing candidate for District 5, according to Kumar.

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