Debra Kolste seeks re-election to Assembly district that covers Janesville

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Gazette staff
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

JANESVILLE—Rep. Debra Kolste said Monday she will seek re-election to the Assembly, continuing what she said is a commitment to job creation, public education and health care despite being in the minority party.

Kolste was first elected to represent the 44th Assembly District in 2012 when she won a four-way Democratic primary and went on to easily defeat incumbent Republican Joe Knilans in the general election.

The district includes most of the city of Janesville.

''I ran in 2012 in part because I wanted to help spur job creation, bolster public education and improve access to health care,'' said Kolste, a Democrat. “I am still committed to working on those issues.”

Kolste was appointed to the Speaker's Task Force on Mental Health and helped create several of the bills.

“The work of the task force was bipartisan, and I appreciated the opportunity to serve on a body that produced good legislation,'' she said.

The Legislature recently passed AB 270, a bipartisan bill authored by Kolste that expands services that free medical clinics can offer to low-income uninsured people.

While Kolste said her bill could not have passed without considerable help from Republicans, she remains critical of the Assembly majority for its lack of progress on job creation and what she said is a continued assault on public education.

“Where is the single-minded concentration on jobs and the economy that our state needs?'' Kolste said. “The Legislature spent its energy making it harder for people to vote and funneling money into unaccountable private schools. That's not progress. It doesn't improve education or democracy, and it surely doesn't create jobs.''

Kolste is co-author of small business and workforce development bills and is lead author of a bill to deal with student loan debt. She is a lead author of a bill to eliminate the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits, and she is one of the original authors of a bill that would reform the now-partisan redistricting process.

Kolste said she came out early in her term in favor of a bill to make the Assembly subject to the open meetings law.

“When you are in the minority, Republican committee chairs often won't even allow hearings on your bills,” she said. “I have reached out to work with Republicans. The Legislature might be obsessed with party labels, but people just want good schools, good jobs and opportunities for their kids.

“My job is to keep trying, to keep my constituents informed, to try to build relationships with Republicans and to lay the groundwork for good legislation in the future.''

Kolste is the only registered candidate in the 44th Assembly District.

If necessary, a primary will be Tuesday, Aug. 12. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

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