Democratic Rep. Terese Berceau confirmed Friday she won’t seek re-election in the fall, setting up a rare open seat for the Legislature on Madison’s West Side.
Berceau told the Wisconsin State Journal she plans to make a formal announcement Monday. She first told Wispolitics.com on Friday that she would not seek another term, making her the second lawmaker to announce her retirement this year after Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum.
Friday afternoon Berceau wrote on Facebook: “The news is out — I’m not running for re-election.”
Berceau, 67, has represented the 77th Assembly District — which covers the UW-Madison campus, Shorewood Hills, and much of the western and southern parts of Madison — since 1998.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, whose district includes the 77th Assembly District, said Berceau has always been accessible to her constituents.
“I think she’ll be missed and remembered as one who was outspoken in support of progressive legislation and good public policy,” Risser said.
Democrats controlled the Assembly for only two of the 20 years Berceau has been in office. She has fought for issues such as universal background checks for gun purchases, a ban on guns on campus, women’s reproductive rights and an increase in the beer tax.
Former Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, who served with Berceau for many years in the Assembly, said she “has been a very articulate and passionate advocate for women, for education and for her community.” He particularly recalled her work on a bill to ban the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
Berceau said in an interview she is most proud of sponsoring laws that require judges to consider evidence of domestic violence when making placement and custody decisions for children in divorces and requiring insurance companies to cover birth control in prescription plans.
She also worked for years to establish online voter registration, which Republicans adopted last session.
“It was never a job — it was my passion,” Berceau said. “The opportunities to work with incredible, involved people in our community, state and country made this an awesome experience that makes it hard to leave. But it’s time.”
Black said based on previous open seats for the Legislature in Madison he could see multiple candidates getting into the race.
“You can anticipate there will be a significant level of interest,” Black said. “There’s a lot of renewed enthusiasm for getting involved in the political process in the last year.”
But as of Friday afternoon, only one candidate had emerged — Dane County Board member Shelia Stubbs, who said she plans to run for the seat.
“During her 26-year career on the Dane County Board and in the Legislature, Terese Berceau has been a dedicated public servant and a strong voice for women’s health, consumer protection, workers’ rights, the environment, health care reform, and education,” Stubbs said. “Together, we can build on her legacy and continue to fight for the values, issues, and change we need in these challenging times.”
If Stubbs were to win the seat, she would be the first African-American elected to the Legislature from Dane County, according to local historian Stu Levitan.
Carousel Bayrd, a Dane County Board member who has previously expressed interest in running for the seat, said she is not running and plans to support Stubbs.
“I would hope people would recognize that we have a moment right here that an incredibly qualified, talented African-American leader in our community is running for this seat and I hope people would recognize that it is her turn to shine,” Bayrd said.
Madison Ald. Sara Eskrich, who some political observers said had been considering a campaign, said she is also supporting Stubbs and “looking forward to Madison electing a strong, representative woman of color to the state Legislature.”
Berceau served on the Dane County Board from 1992 until 2000.
When she ran for the seat in 1998 she faced one Democratic opponent and a Republican in the general election.
The race for the heavily Democratic district would likely be decided by the Aug. 14 primary, when a slew of Democratic gubernatorial candidates will also be vying to challenge Gov. Scott Walker.