The UNN Candidate Interview: Dewey Bredeson and Heather Driscoll of Assembly District 76
Dewey Bredeson and Heather Driscoll are running to replace Rep. Chris Taylor in a district that includes most of Madison's downtown and east side.

Seven Democrats are vying for Rep. Chris Taylor’s seat. Here is a look at two of the contenders. 

Editor’s Note: Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, announced her decision to not seek another term in office at the end of March. She was subsequently appointed by Gov. Tony Evers as a Dane County Circuit Court judge, a position she will start on Aug. 1.

Vying for her seat that covers a majority of Madison’s east side and downtown are seven Democrats who will square off in the Aug. 11 primary. The candidates are Dewey Bredeson, Heather Driscoll, Francesca Hong, Ali Maresh, Nicki Vander Meulen, Marsha Rummel, and Tyrone Cratic Williams.

Click HERE for the profiles of Hong and Maresh.

Click HERE from responses from Rummel, Vander Muelen, and Cratic.

UpNorthNews: What is the top issue facing the people in your district? 

Dewey Bredeson: Voter suppression, more affordable house, fair non-partisan redistricting, sufficient funding for K-12 education, and restoring the prestige of the University of Wisconsin.  

I see the next two years being all about the COVID epidemic and it will affect all my priorities. People are suffering, businesses are going under, and the government budget has been busted by this COVID-19 virus. We are suffering physically, mentally, and financially. We are fearful for our income, housing, education, and health. These are the biggest needs in District 76 and these will be my priorities.   

UNN: Describe what unique life experiences would make you both an empathetic and effective lawmaker. 

Dewey Bredeson: I have 40 years of experience working in real estate solving people’s problems by listening and asking the right questions. I know more about housing than any of my opponents. I have developed, bought, sold, rehabbed, rented, and managed housing including affordable and senior housing. 

Whether working on a new development project, completing two Ironman races or my 4,000 mile bike tour of the United States, I start with a goal. Then I solicit feedback from others, make a plan, work the plan, and change the plan to do what is needed to accomplish the goal. I have learned that being fair and listening to each party is the only way to come to an equitable ending that satisfies everyone. 

UNN: Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes introduced a package of nine bills on June 19 aimed at reforming police transparency and accountability in response to ongoing protests over the murder of George Floyd. Do you believe this package does too little? Explain.

Dewey Bredeson: I believe it is a good start and even these logical reforms will be difficult to pass in the Republican-led  legislature. Additionally we should hold police officers accountable for their actions. Also, we should be looking for ways to include mental health experts to accompany police when the call warrants. 

 UNN: Funding for K-12 education is an ongoing issue in Wisconsin, now exacerbated by the need for virtual learning due to COVID-19. What do lawmakers need to pass to ensure that low income students in your district are not left behind?

Dewey Bredeson: We need to eliminate the local levy on property tax increases, so individual school districts across the state can determine their needs and have the resources to address them. We also need to reduce school fees that hit lower-income families much harder. 

UNN: Your district includes a portion of Dane County, which has the highest infant mortality rate for Black babies in the country. What could you do as a member of the Legislature to begin to address this problem? 

Dewey Bredeson: We need to expand Medicare under the Badgercare program and take full advantage of federal money available. Additionally we need to find a way to make sure all Wisconsin residents have health insurance. We also need more outreach to communities of color about the resources available. 

Wisconsin’s 76th Assembly District stretches from downtown Madison, up the isthmus and into the city’s east side.

UpNorthNews: What is the top issue facing the people in your district?

Heather Driscoll: We are experiencing multiple crises from health care to racial justice to environment to gun violence to politics. I see these issues as profoundly interconnected, and we need real action on all fronts. I’ll fight for BadgerCare for All, ending mass incarceration, a Green New Deal, background checks on every gun purchase, voting rights, and fully funding our public schools.

UNN: Describe what unique life experiences would make you both an empathetic and effective lawmaker. 

Heather Driscoll: As a gun violence and sexual assault survivor, as well as someone whose family has experienced tragedy due to lack of adequate health care, I have personal reasons for fighting for change and I channel this understanding into effective action. I have a proven record of advocating, organizing, and educating around these core issues. I will be effective at the Capitol without compromising my progressive values.

UNN: Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes introduced a package of nine bills on June 19 aimed at reforming police transparency and accountability in response to ongoing protests over the murder of George Floyd. Do you believe this package does too little? Explain. 

Heather Driscoll: I fully support these bills but do think we need to go further to structurally reform policing. Whenever possible I believe we should send professionals who are best equipped to handle situations without guns. 

For example in Eugene, Oregon, there’s a program called Cahoots that receives around 24,000 calls per year. They send mental health experts to handle situations when someone is having a mental health crisis.

They have only had to call for police back-up in less than 1% of calls. Other cities have developed similar programs modeled after it and Dane County is looking at it as well. I support funding and incentives to implement programs like this in Wisconsin. 

UNN: Funding for K-12 education is an ongoing issue in Wisconsin, now exacerbated by the need for virtual learning due to COVID-19. What do lawmakers need to pass to ensure that low income students in your district are not left behind?

Heather Driscoll: Last spring many low-income families had challenges getting access to virtual learning due to lack of internet/broadband access and oftentimes older kids help take care of their younger siblings because so many parents are essential workers.

As a parent with two children in public elementary school, I found virtual learning to be challenging but I still advocated for all-virtual learning this fall due to COVID-19 making it unsafe for in-person instruction. 

We must do everything we can to make sure they don’t get left behind going forward. Many kids rely on services the school provides for child care, nutrition, health services, and social and emotional support – we must make sure basic needs are met and that means fully funding the schools to continue providing these services throughout the pandemic.

I’m excited to see that the Governor created a task force on broadband access and I look forward to seeing the recommendations that come out of it.

I fully support the state providing two-thirds of the financial aid to our public schools so that we ensure that every pupil, no matter what zip code they live in, has the funding and resources needed to get a high-quality public education in Wisconsin. I will defend public education funding as a core component of our state’s budget and as a necessary investment into our children and our state’s future.

UNN: Your district includes a portion of Dane County, which has the highest infant mortality rate for Black babies in the country. What could you do as a member of the Legislature to begin to address this problem?

Heather Driscoll: We need to ensure that every Wisconsinite has affordable healthcare to stop these preventable tragedies from happening. I support a single player plan like BadgerCare for All. Healthcare must include comprehensive prenatal care and nutrition.

Infant mortality is reduced when parents have the right to a doctor or midwife of their choice, birth support people like doulas, and nurse home visits.