Jonathan Dedering has been doing doors in District 78 in his bid to replace incumbent state Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison), who recently made headlines for pleading no contest to a disorderly conduct charge. Dedering says residents don't talk much about that incident, but they do bring up the flap over endorsements that occurred during Hulsey's inaugural run for the Assembly in 2010.
In one instance, state Rep. Spencer Black, who was stepping down after 26 years from the seat Hulsey was running for, accused the candidate of misquoting him in a campaign mailer and publicly withdrew his support for him. Black also released an email he sent to Hulsey, in which he noted that Hulsey had a "problem with trustworthiness."
Dedering, who is running as a Green Party candidate, says Hulsey has also not been truthful in responding to questions about the disorderly conduct charge, in which he pleaded no contest to flipping a 9-year-old boy from his flotation device at Spring Harbor Beach on July 4. Hulsey later provided conflicting stories to the press and also charged it was a politically motivated complaint.
"I followed it closely, and he's definitely not being truthful," says Dedering. "The basis of his job really is to be trustworthy. You can look at this incident and see how he's blamed everybody else but himself."
Dedering says he's also watched Hulsey make poor decisions as a state lawmaker, from leaning on protesters to leave the Capitol Rotunda during last year's protests to grandstanding after a news conference called by Gov. Scott Walker to explain his conversation with a prankster pretending to be billionaire David Koch.
When asked to respond to Dedering's charges that he stretches the truth, Hulsey avoids the question.
"There's been nobody who's worked harder for their district than I have," he says, citing as one example the 62 hours he spent at the state Capitol fighting Walker's collective bargaining bill.
And he takes a shot at Dedering. "This is coming from a guy who doesn't even live in the district he is running for."
Dedering, who lives in the campus area, says he is already shopping for new digs in the district. Legally he can move in after the election.
Hulsey doesn't think he is more vulnerable than he was in 2010. But Dedering, 26, thinks he is. Even two years ago, the Green Party candidate Ben Manski gave Hulsey a fight, garnering 31% of the vote to Hulsey's 48%; Republican David Redick won just under 19%.
There has never been a Green Party state lawmaker, but Dedering says if it's going to happen, Madison is a good place to be.
"It's one of the only spots in the state where you could legitimately get a Green candidate in the Legislature," he says.
Dedering grew up in Elroy, home of former governor and U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson.
Both of his parents were public school teachers. A Boy Scout and active member of 4-H, he moved with his family to Reedsburg and graduated from high school there.
He studied marketing at MATC, now Madison College, and works as a building supervisor for an apartment complex in Madison.
Dedering's activism dates to high school, when he got involved in a student group working to defeat the bill to ban same-sex marriage in the state Constitution. He also protested against the war in Iraq and was a steady presence during the Capitol protests against Walker's collective bargaining bill.
Dedering says he decided to run against Hulsey because he saw no other challengers in sight. "I really wanted to give him a run for his money because I think there are a lot of people who could do that job better than him, and I think I'm one."
Unlike Hulsey, says Dedering, he has real solutions to some of the problems plaguing Wisconsin.
"We have a plan for reopening factories by legalizing hemp," says Dedering, who notes Wisconsin used to be the nation's top producer of the hearty plant. "Anything you can make out of plastic or fiberglass you can make out of hemp.
"We create a locally sourced product, we manufacture it locally and we sell it nationally," he adds. "That's how we create thousands of new jobs."
If elected, Dedering says he would also work to restore funding to public education and help create a nonpartisan commission that would take the politics out of redistricting for 2020.
Due to the recent redistricting by Republican lawmakers, Dedering is likely running in a more conservative district than the old 77th. No longer covering any of the campus, it extends further west, touching part of Verona and Middleton. Dedering says there are both more professional and working-class residents now.
If elected, Dedering says he would like to join the Democratic caucus. But he says he would work well with Republicans too.
"Because I grew up in the country I understand a lot of the issues," says Dedering, who notes he comes from a Catholic, anti-abortion stronghold.
He says he also understands the conservative wish for less government red tape. "There are solutions," he says. "They just need to get addressed."