Ben Manski, a former Isthmus contributor, declared Friday that he is joining the already-crowded race for the 77th Assembly seat as a Green candidate. I got a chance to sit down with Manski Friday afternoon at Espresso Royale to talk about the race, as well as his thoughts on state and national politics.
First off, Manski tells me that after blogging for Isthmus for a few months back in 2008, he realized he wasn't cut out for the tit-for-tat arguments with David Blaska that
Although Manski hasn't come out with a press release yet, he set up a facebook page -- stoic picture and all -- which has already attracted 60 fans, including lefty activists such as Brenda Konkel and Ashok Kumar.
Manski, who left the Democratic Party in 1992 in response to Bill Clinton's nomination, has a long career in activism and local politics, especially in environmental issues. He wishes to continue the environmental legacy set by Rep. Spencer Black in the Assembly, and says the Democratic candidates for the seat have not demonstrated that they will pursue a progressive agenda with the zeal and courage that defined Black's career.
He pointed to Black's championing of the mining moratorium during the early and mid-90's, which many Democrats, including former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (who Manski nevertheless defends as an advocate for education), were reluctant to support. Manski also credits Black for supporting legislation to prevent the National Guard from being "deployed illegally" overseas, a move he says many other Democrats were not willing to take.
In particular, Manski is disappointed with some of Brett Hulsey's stances on key environmental issues. He says some progressives were upset with Hulsey's support for a biohazard lab in the town of Dunn, and that Hulsey has been a roadblock for the investigation into primate research at UW.
On Dianne Hesselbeim, perhaps the second most prominent Dem candidate in the race, Manski says he is not aware of any important legislation she has introduced. He contrasts what he considers her lackluster first term with that of past supervisors, such as Ashok Kumar, who he said "accomplished a lot in one term."
When asked if he would caucus with the Democrats in the Assembly if elected, Manski said he would work instead to form a progressive caucus. He did not have a specific answer as to whom he would receive committee assignments from or who would be a potential member of such a caucus.
Manski's stated priorities for the state are full funding for higher education, including the gradual phasing out of tuition, as well as the implementation of a more progressive income tax.
In addition, Manski stated that the Democrat in the race whose views most closely resemble his own is Fred Wade, who earned the endorsement of Peg Lautenschlager today. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Manski said Lautenschlager was the last Democrat he voted for in a statewide election, which may be the beginning of an answer to the question I asked earlier: Why did she beat up so badly on Kathleen Falk in Dane County?
I'll be interested to see how Mike Basford responds to this. A look into the records shows he just might have something to say about it.