Dane County Board elections were once intense ideological confrontations, which played out across the urban, suburban and rural landscape of the county. Progressives and conservatives faced off in bitter battles over land use, environmental, social service and social policy issues. The issues have not gone away, but most of the competition has.
Hard-core conservatives, who not that many years ago competed seriously for control of the board, were discredited by their association with the partisanship and the policies of Gov. Scott Walker. At the same time, able progressive leadership at the countywide level and on the board – often in partnership with moderate supervisors and less ideologically driven conservatives – has created a stability that seems to have eased tensions. That’s given board races a lower profile, and this year, of the 37 seats on the board, all of which are up for election, there are races in only seven districts.
But, make no mistake, the competition matters.
There are plenty of essential land use and environmental issues on the table. And the deep cuts made by the state of Wisconsin have created new budget pressures. This year, we make our Capital Times endorsements with the clear intention of electing progressives and strengthening the will of the board to protect the environment, to preserve family farming, to deliver top-quality public services and to ensure that Dane County leads the nation in promoting diversity, sustainability and economic fairness.
Below are our picks in the contested County Board races.
District 5: Leland Pan
Both incumbent Leland Pan and challenger Chris Hoffman take progressive positions. Both are committed to representing the distinct interests of this downtown district, with its substantial student population. Either would, to our view, serve well. But we are enthusiastic in our support of Pan, who came to the board as an activist and who has served as such -- focusing on issues ranging from homelessness to racial disparity to environmental sustainability and economic justice. He’s an active participant on key committees, including the Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Cultural Affairs Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Homeless Issues Committee. And he brings a student perspective to key debates, always ensuring that the 5th District, the campus and downtown neighborhoods are heard.
District 21: Andrew Schauer
We have a soft spot for veteran Supervisor Dave Wiganowsky, especially when he raises common-sense questions about how his fellow board members are operating. But the 21st District, which takes in parts of Madison’s far east side and neighboring towns, needs more than that. It needs an engaged and experienced representative who shares the values and the goals of working families. Andrew Schauer, a 38-year-old attorney with the Wisconsin Professional Police Officers Association, would be just that. While Wiganowsky has expressed sympathy with Gov. Scott Walker’s assaults of the collective bargaining rights of public employees, Schauer defends the rights of workers and believes those rights promote cooperation rather than confrontation. Schauer says, “I have worked with local governments all across Wisconsin representing law enforcement officers and other public employees. I want to take this experience to the Dane County Board to get services to those who need them most, while looking for efficiencies which will keep our tax levy in check.” That’s a pragmatic progressive approach that would work well on the board, and we think the 21st District would be best served by electing Andrew Schauer.
District 22: Maureen McCarville
As a former DeForest village trustee and a member of the community’s police commission for 11 years, Maureen McCarville has brought to the County Board a determination to represent the interests of the villages and towns of the county. She understands the range of issues that must be addressed at a point when Dane County is rapidly developing. And she has addressed them. At the same time, McCarville has focused on countywide issues and concerns, paying particular attention to public safety, support for seniors and reform of how the board districts are drawn. Her challenger, Dustin Wichmann, can’t match McCarville’s experience and deep commitment to serving the DeForest area.
District 27: Dorothy Krause
Since her election as a supervisor two years ago, Krause has proven to be a strikingly energetic and effective board member. She has served on the Health and Human Needs Committee, the Land Conservation Committee, the Airport Commission and the Long-Term Support Commission. She’s also on the board of the Dane County Development Corporation. She does all this while continuing to serve on the Fitchburg City Council as one of its most engaged members. What drives Krause is an understanding of the role that well-managed public programs and services can play in addressing the challenges faced by the diverse district she represents. Krause strikes precisely the right balance between idealism and pragmatism, she builds real coalitions and she gets a lot done. That makes her the preferable choice to challenger Patrick Stern, a fellow Fitchburg council member.
District 28: Abigail Wuest
Abigail Wuest is an exceptionally impressive newcomer to county politics. An assistant attorney general, she’s a thoughtful advocate for protecting the environment, preserving farms and allowing villages and towns to have a real say with regard to development. At a time when the state is trying to preempt local authority, her contribution to the board could be especially important to the western Dane County communities she seeks to represent. Wuest is ready to hit the ground running, with well-formed ideas regarding social service, human needs and criminal justice issues facing the county. Her conservative opponent, Todd Osborne, has criticized the county’s moves to extend labor contracts in order to protect workers from Gov. Walker’s Act 10 assault on collective bargaining rights. Wuest takes the opposite position, arguing that “giving workers a voice in the workplace is important as a matter of fairness, but it also helps attract qualified workers to these jobs and increases the quality of our services.” Wuest is right, and she should be elected to the board.
District 30: Patrick Downing
Veteran Supervisor Patrick Downing has championed the interests of the villages and towns he represents in southwest Dane County, where he served for many years as the town of Perry board chair. His background and understanding of the region have been especially important in recent months, as legislators have attacked local control. With leadership from Downing, the county has fought to ensure that citizens have a say regarding everything from land use to fracking. Downing’s challenger, Jerry O’Brien from Belleville, understands the issues and we respect him. But Downing’s making a major contribution to the County Board and should be retained.
District 32: Pat McPartland
Former Supervisor Mike Willett, who was defeated in 2012, is making a comeback bid this year. He’s got experience and is serious about county issues. But we think Pat McPartland, a retired special education teacher who has thought long and hard about human services and criminal justice issues, would make a greater contribution to the board. A 29-year resident of Verona, she’s passionate about the communities she seeks to represent and about ensuring that county policies maintain vital services while at the same time innovating to provide better care for people with mental health challenges and disabilities. McPartland really wants to make a difference on the board and we think she should have the chance to do so.
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