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Friday, January 30, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 13.0° F  Fair
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Who will be Scott Walker's worst enemy?
Liberals with similar goals vie for Dist. 48 seat
(From top left) Fred Arnold, Dave de Felice, Andy Heidt, Bethany Ordaz, Vicky Selkowe and Chris Taylor.
(From top left) Fred Arnold, Dave de Felice, Andy Heidt, Bethany Ordaz, Vicky Selkowe and Chris Taylor.

The six candidates in the Democratic primary to replace Joe Parisi in the state Assembly are all fighting for the chance to do battle with Gov. Scott Walker.

You'd expect no less for the liberal Dist. 48, which includes the east side of Madison, Monona, McFarland and the towns of Dunn and Blooming Grove.

The candidates bring an impressive blend of experience, ideas and energy, but their goals are largely similar. Who is the best one for the job? Parisi, who resigned the seat when he became Dane County executive, says the choice is tough: "It's a good slate of candidates," he says, adding, "right now it's a wide-open race."

It will be winner-take-all for the July 12 primary - no Republicans or independents have registered to run. That means that, barring a long-shot write-in campaign, the Democratic primary winner will run unopposed in the Aug. 9 general election.

Isthmus asked the six candidates to explain their views and goals. You can see their complete responses at

Fred Arnold
Retired Madison College instructor, former Madison alder and former Dane County supervisor

One of Fred Arnold's main reasons for running is an issue usually cited by conservatives: economic development.

But Arnold, 69, makes clear that he has no respect for how Republicans are currently running the show: "Long-held traditions of due process and transparency are being ignored at the Capitol. This is not how we do things in the state of Wisconsin. My top priority will be to protect the basic tenets and traditions of fairness and justice in state government."

Arnold, a former economics professor, says he believes he can find common ground with Republicans on economic development, though he approaches the subject with a progressive bent.

"Gov. Walker's recent budget raises taxes on low-income working families while reinstating tax loopholes for corporations," he says. "This runs counter to recognizing the important connection between shared opportunity and shared sacrifice."

Arnold says he would look at reforming the tax code to eliminate loopholes for corporations and beef up enforcement on tax delinquents. He would consider a 1% sales tax increase - with a credit for low-income families - to help ease the burden of educational funding on property taxes.

Arnold is endorsed by the Madison Area Technical College faculty union.

Dave de Felice
Chief of staff for state Sen. Spencer Coggs and Dane County supervisor

Dave de Felice, 59, says his philosophy of public service is best summed up by the "campground theory," which he explains is to "leave it better than you found it."

He's running for Assembly because, he says, "I am for everything Scott Walker is against."

Specifically, de Felice would fight for education and mental health resources.

"An education should be available for all who want to work for it," he says. "But it is being pulled incrementally out of reach for everyday people. I would like to see the day when education in technical colleges and universities is free with admission based on academic merit."

Although struggling against the Republican agenda is daunting, de Felice says it's also an opportunity. "How else are you forced to rediscover and renew your core values?" he asks.

De Felice would also fight to restore independence at the Department of Natural Resources and push for green jobs. "According to a study by the Renewable Energy Policy Report, establishing a viable wind turbine industry in Wisconsin would generate $75 million of economic activity in Dane County alone, creating nearly 500 jobs in our area," he says.

De Felice is endorsed by Firefighters Local 311.

Andy Heidt
Ombudsman for Dane County Human Services, former Madison alder

Democrats are never going to "claw our way back into power by playing Republican lite," says Andy Heidt, 49.

Instead, Heidt says, "We must galvanize folks by inspiring them with programs and policies to truly lead on a path to our dreams in the 21st century. When we were last in power, Democrats cut $300 million from public schools. We cannot be partners in a race to the bottom."

Heidt's priority in the Assembly would be constituent services to "guide them through the bureaucratic morass while leading on key legislative issues that are critical to people and families. This Assembly seat can be a conduit of the cutting edge of legislative innovation and policies that stimulate sustainable economic development while enhancing the quality of life in our Wisconsin."

Heidt advocates several environmental programs, including banning new coal plants and pushing for regional transit authorities, intercity rail and solar power.

Heidt calls for major tax reforms, "to tax fully and fairly corporate profits, incomes over $250,000, capital gains, mortgage transfers and inheritance while eliminating the nonessential areas of sales tax exemptions." He also proposes the creation of a state bank.

Heidt is endorsed by AFSCME People.

Bethany Ordaz
Legislative assistant to state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa

For Bethany Ordaz, 30, this election is personal.

"Everything I have worked on over the last eight years, Scott Walker took away in six weeks," she says.

If elected, Ordaz says she'll focus on restoring collective bargaining rights, reforming school financing and banning mandatory overtime requirements for health workers. All of these reforms begin at the polls: "In order to restore sanity to our government, we must take back the Senate and then recall Scott Walker," Ordaz says. "I know how to do that. I have successfully elected Democratic candidates in contested seats and will work tirelessly to build a strong majority."

Ordaz admits Democrats share much of the blame for the current state of affairs. "Frankly, when the Democrats controlled both chambers and the governor's office, we did not offer a clear, unified a vision," she says. "Too much infighting ultimately meant that we failed to govern effectively or communicate a coherent vision. We can't make that mistake again."

But she does see a way forward, even as a member of the minority. She points out that despite having little power, Democrats were able to rally support to save the SeniorCare prescription program and the recycling grants.

Ordaz is endorsed by the Service Employees International Union Wisconsin State Council and the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

Vicky Selkowe
Chief of staff for state Rep. Cory Mason

Vicky Selkowe, 37, says she is ready to fight: "I wake up every single morning motivated to advocate for workers and families who are struggling to make ends meet in a changing global economy and in historically challenged times in our state."

If elected, she will champion public education.

"Even before Scott Walker, our schools constantly battled for funding to maintain the quality educational system our children deserve," Selkowe says. "Rich districts are pitted against poor districts, rural versus urban. We need to change the funding formula so our schools are not fighting against each other over the same shrinking pot of money."

Like her opponents, Selkowe advocates for tax reform, including tougher enforcement on delinquent taxes and higher taxes on the rich.

Not all of this will be possible while the Democrats are in the minority, she admits. "In the minority, 'effectiveness' is measured not necessarily by passage of legislation," Selkowe says. "I will articulate the problems with the Republican agenda through my role on Assembly committees and on the Assembly floor using amendments and the media to highlight the harm caused by their policies."

Selkowe is endorsed by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and Madison Teachers Inc.

Chris Taylor
Public policy director at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin

Chris Taylor, 43, believes she has a good idea of what it's like to be a Democrat in the state Assembly these days. She works for an organization, Planned Parenthood, that is "continually under attack."

That experience works to her benefit, she says: "I know how to move a proactive agenda forward in the most hostile circumstances."

Taylor says that to get things done in the minority "you need to take the issues to the communities and mobilize citizens."

Her priorities are establishing a "Working Families Bill of Rights" to, among other things, bring back collective bargaining rights; restoring education funding cuts; passing a "Healthy Women, Healthy Families" bill that will protect women's health programs; and passing a "Go Green" economic bill to develop alternative energy.

Taylor also advocates tax reform to eliminate loopholes for corporations. She believes in "fair tax policies so that everyone is paying their fair share."

Taylor would also rethink school funding: "The state needs to once again assume responsibility for a significant chunk of school funding, lessening the burden on local communities and property taxpayers, and looking at ways to create more revenue for schools."

Taylor is endorsed by former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

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