Two familiar faces in Janesville politics are looking to claim the 44th Assembly District seat left vacant by Deb Kolste, who is not seeking re-election.
Democrat Sue Conley and Republican DuWayne Severson are running for the seat. Both come with years of experience in local politics and organizations.
Conley is the current city council president, and Severson has three years of council experience and also served on the school board for nine years.
The Gazette asked Conley and Severson these questions about issues facing the state:
Q: What do you think the Assembly’s role should be in helping Wisconsinites get through and recover from the coronavirus pandemic?
Conley: Making sure people are able to stay in their homes is a top priority.
The federal moratorium on evictions will expire, she said, and some people will be faced with paying back rent on reduced incomes. Meanwhile, landlords need help, too.
Small businesses need to be helped, hopefully by new and creative means.
Conley also stressed the need to accept the federal Medicaid expansion, which would offer health care coverage for more than 20,000 Wisconsinites, she said.
Severson: The two most important issues facing the 44th District are job loss and the need to support local health departments, he said.
He is interested in finding ways to incentivize businesses to come to Janesville and provide jobs.
Severson also wants to help families with the transition from at-home to in-person instruction.
Q: How do you think the Assembly should respond to protests calling for police reform, defunding of police departments and protection for people of color?
Conley: “I was disappointed in the Legislature,” she said of a legislative session that gaveled in and out instead of discussing Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed police reforms.
She said she does not like the phrase “defund police.” Rather, Conley wants to strengthen police forces by allocating funds to social services and other services that could help prevent police intervention.
Conley said she supports banning the use of chokeholds by police statewide.
The Janesville Police Department has many great practices she thinks could be models for the state.
Severson: “I was very encouraged by Speaker Vos’ task force to address disparities, public safety and policy standards,” he said, adding that he is impressed by the inclusion of citizens on the task force.
He agrees with Conley that Janesville police could provide a model for the rest of the state.
Q: Janesville officials have said for years the state needs to revise its formula for state shared revenue because the city does not get a fair cut. Do you agree with that? If so, how should shared revenue be revised?
Conley: Conley agrees that the state shared revenue formula needs to be revised.
The community does not look the same as it did when shared revenue formulas were determined, she said.
The state needs to look at all pieces of municipal funding and update them in ways that are fair and equitable, she said.
Severson: Things have changed over 20 years, and Janesville’s cut of shared revenue should be in line with what other communities get, Severson said.
He said he is open to learning more about using a municipal sales tax as another “tool” to raise revenue. He is also open to considering transportation utilities as a means for increasing municipal funding.
For more election coverage, visit gazettextra.com/election.