After eating the aforementioned breakfast burrito at Barriques, I had the opportunity to talk to Dane County Sup. Dianne Hesselbein about her bid for the 77th district Assembly seat today.
Hesselbein, 39, was born and raised in Madison, attended La Follette High School and then went to UW-Oshkosh for college. There she got active in politics, working for the Clinton campaign in 1992. She returned to Madison afterwards, where she received a Masters degree in theology from Edgewood College, and where she now raises three children along with her husband, a Delta airlines pilot.
Hesselbein believes the first priority of the next 77th district representative should be education. She pledges to be an advocate for all levels of learning, including K-12, MATC and the UW system. One anecdote she offers to describe declining standards for education is that her son's high school offers less foreign languages than she was offered as a teenager two decades ago.
"Our parents had less, we had a little more, and now our kids have less than we did," she explains. She says the school funding formula has been broken since 1993, and she advocates the Wisconsin Way blueprint as a means to more equitably distribute state funding to public schools.
On UW, Hesselbein favors increasing state support to "attract and retain high quality professors" and to prevent the "brain drain" of students and educated professionals from Wisconsin.
When asked to distinguish her candidacy from that of her opponents, specifically Sup. Brett Hulsey, Hesselbein suggests her time on the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, combined with her service on the County Board, offers her a breadth of experience in public policy, specifically education.
Other priorities of Hesselbein's include environmental policy, which she sees as closely linked to education. "We need to raise these kids to address the problems of tomorrow," she said, referencing practices such as recycling and general environmental awareness. And like her primary opponents, she expressed disappointment that the Clean Energy Jobs Act was not approved during the past legislative session.
Her proudest accomplishments on the board include the enactment of the county smoking ban as well as the establishment of a county domestic partnership registry. She also discussed her work to put in place interoperability radios for first responders in the county -- a policy which ultimately failed when villages and towns in the county refused to foot the bill.
Although she did not volunteer any specific taxes or fees she would raise in the Assembly, she believes the department of revenue needs additional staffing to collect up to $1 billion in unpaid taxes.
On Republicans: "They're very anti-choice, they want no tax increases and they're very interested in guns."
Asked whether she believed it would be possible to build consensus with "the party of no," she said she would try, but that she would be "focused a lot on the Democratic Party and getting our priorities straight." She points to her endorsement by 15 members of the County Board to display her ability to win political allies. As she puts it, "it's about knowing a lot of information and articulating it well."
To her priorities includes marriage rights for same-sex couples, which she is willing to do by introducing a constitutional amendment to counteract the amendment approved in 2006.
She lauded Fred Wade for bringing up the issue of the governor's expansive veto powers, and she supports his position to reform the veto in a way that would mirror the system of checks and balances in the federal government.
Although she says Sheriff Dave Mahoney has been an asset to the county in many areas, she disagrees with his policy of reporting illegal immigrants who have been arrested for minor offenses to ICE.