Second candidate, Austin Scieszinski, to run for 15th District state Senate seat

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Frank Schultz
Saturday, April 12, 2014

JANESVILLE—Two, possibly three, candidates are lining up to catch the voters' fancies in a local election for state Senate seat.

Austin Scieszinski, a Janesville native, announced today he will run for the 15th Senate District seat.

Scieszinski joins the previously announced Janis Ringhand, Democratic Assembly representative from Evansville, in the race for their party's nomination. Voters will decide in the Aug. 12 primary.

Mike Sheridan, the former Janesville Assembly representative and union activist from Janesville, has said he is close to making a decision on running for state Senate, as well.

In an interview with The Gazette, Scieszinski, 24, styled himself as a fresh face in a new generation of leadership who is willing to work with anyone in the Senate to break down partisan gridlock to improve the lives of people of the 15th District.

That willingness to work with political opponents is similar to the philosophy of Sen. Tim Cullen, who is vacating the seat after his term ends.

Scieszinski was a state government summer intern in a program that Cullen founded when Scieszinski was a student at Craig High School in 2007. Three years later, Scieszinski ran Cullen's campaign for Senate and “did a heck of a job,” Cullen told The Gazette. Scieszinski later worked in Cullen's Senate office.

Cullen didn't want to steal Scieszinski's announcement thunder with an endorsement today, but he said: I think he's a terrific candidate, and really I think we need somebody like him, and I'm really excited about him running.”

Scieszinski said he has a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting from UW-Madison and has been working in his family's real-estate investment company, Northwoods Investments, as a project manager.

Scieszinski noted that finance is at the core of many policy debates, and while working in a small business he has seen how businesses struggle and hold the potential for providing jobs.

At the state Capitol, “I've seen how it operates. I know how it operates. So I'd be able to hit the ground running.”

That resume might resonate with voters, although Ringhand also has experience at the Capitol and in her family's business. She also has experience in local government.

Asked about the potential for a three-way primary, Scieszinski said he wasn't sure what would happen, but “it's an open race, and it's an open primary, and everyone has the right to run.”

Scieszinski said he would run a “traditional Democratic campaign, going door to door and taking nothing for granted.”

The district leans Democratic, and no Republican candidate has declared, yet. Wisconsin law allows voters from any party to vote in the primary, although they may vote only in one party's primary.

Asked whether a primary might harm Democrats' chances of retaining the seat, Scieszinski said he believes the competition will be politically healthful, with opposing ideas leading to the best legislation for the district.

“I think that's what makes our democracy great,” he said.

The district comprises much of Rock County, including Janesville and parts of surrounding counties of Walworth, Green, Jefferson and Dane counties, including Whitewater.

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