Wisconsin’s legislature is expected to become more diverse after the fall primary results released Aug. 12. The representatives from the Madison area are set to make history if they win in November.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Francesca Hong, the victor of the Democratic primary in the 76th Assembly District, would be the first Asian American in the state legislature, former Rep. Kelda Roys and Rep. Melissa Sargent D-Madison, the expected new state senators for Dane County, would be the first women elected from their districts and Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh, who won the Democratic primary in the 48th Assembly District, would be the first Muslim in Wisconsin’s Congress if elected.
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Rep. Shelia Stubbs D-Madison, elected in 2018, was the first Black woman to be elected from Dane County, breaking 170 years of history.
Stubbs described her experiences while fighting for issues Black communities face as difficult because other people in the state legislature do not face the same problems she does. She said the Capitol building did not have any pictures of Black people until she brought it on herself to rectify this.
Stubbs also said fighting for her community is especially hard because Democrats are the minority party in the state legislature. This means they do not have much say in what topics are discussed in session.
Stubbs also emphasized the importance of diversity in the political system.
“For too long, those in power have not been an accurate reflection of those they represent,” Stubbs said. “I think it just means something when people can relate to someone that looks like them or someone that understands their issues and their struggles.”
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According to The Cap Times, Hong, a political newcomer, won the 76th Assembly District with 28.2% of the vote after defeating six other candidates in the Democratic primary. She is all but confirmed to speak for Madison’s isthmus, an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
Hong, who strongly believes in the value of community and coalition of diverse points of view, spoke about the importance of representation from communities that are not as visible in politics.
“I think we’ve kind of lost over the past ten years, at least in Wisconsin, this ability to see that the people’s voices are represented, and [they have] not been,” Hong said. “I chose to run because I wanted working people, working class folks, individuals, families, business owners … I wanted them to see that we could all still come together to make change.”
Hong said she plans to prioritize the allocation of funds to education, combatting COVID-19 and protecting human rights and equality for her constituents if elected.
According to The Cap Times, Baldeh, who served on the City Council for three terms before running for office, procured almost 50% of the vote in his district as well.
Baldeh spoke about the importance of representation in the government.
“No matter how much white people know me or know Black people, they are not Black people … so when somebody with the same skin color represents you, you feel good,” Baldeh said. “[After being in the community] I would be able to reflect, or at least be able to advocate for what I know the community is feeling.”
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The fall primary foreshadows a monumental shift in Wisconsin’s legislature. These representatives, if elected, will be able to bring attention to many issues that primarily impact communities of color.
Furthermore, this is not a shift only Wisconsin is experiencing. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 583 women are running for seats in the House of Representatives across the nationーa record high. This is a 22.5% increase from the previous record of 476 women. Of these 583 women, at least 248 of them are women of color, another record high.
It is likely November will bring a series of firsts to Wisconsin’s Capitol, allowing for more representation and opening the door to increased diversity in the future.