Janesville voters will be choosing a new person to represent them in the 44th Assembly District because incumbent Democrat Deb Kolste is not seeking re-election.

We believe they should vote for Democrat Sue Conley over Republican candidate DuWayne Severson. Based on the editorial board’s conversations with the candidates, we believe Conley has a more common sense approach to the issues and a base of experience that’s given her a deeper understanding of the community.

Conley has continuously served the community.

“It’s just who I am. I’m a problem solver and a consensus builder,” Conley said.

She started her career in banking before staying at home to raise her children. She worked at the YWCA shelter and later led the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin until retiring in 2014. After retirement she has volunteered to help nonprofit boards improve their governance practices and has filled in as interim director at HealthNet and at KANDU Industries and now is executive director of the UW-Rock County Foundation. She was elected to the Janesville City Council in 2017 and now is council president.

Severson has served the community, too, on the Janesville School Board, Janesville City Council and Janesville Police and Fire Commission, but his 30 years with Mercy Health System gives Severson a narrower view of the community.

On the issues, Conley came across as presenting her own thinking, while Severson appeared to be delivering the party line.

On the state response to the coronavirus, for example, Severson said: “For each area, I think they need to decide what’s best for them as to how it affects their community” and “Each community knows what’s best for them to address their particular needs.”

Conley said she’s glad Gov. Tony Evers imposed a mask mandate. “I don’t think you can do it community by community unless we’re all forced to stay within our own communities, but we all move around all the time.”

We agree with Conley. A fractured response to the coronavirus—leaving it to individual communities to decide what to do—is not the way to minimize death and suffering.

The Republican position and, therefore, Severson’s position is to allow local control. That won’t work. He said that what’s right for Bayfield might not be what’s right for Madison, which has “issues with college students.”

No doubt Madison has “issues with college students,” but those students don’t stay in Madison. Some go home to Bayfield, Sister Bay or Viroqua, take the virus with them and could more easily infect friends and family if their hometown doesn’t require masks.

We heard the “local control” argument from other Republican candidates in other races on other issues. Sometimes, local control is best, but when it comes to fighting a pandemic, it makes no sense. It’s troubling Severson chooses to adopt the party line rather than apply common sense.

In these times of political polarization, we prefer the candidate who appears more willing to think for herself.