Thursday, December 22, 2016

Melissa Sargent provides the voice Democrats in Wisconsin need right now (and perhaps in 2018, too)

Democratic legislator recognizes that, on the issues, Wisconsin citizens support progressive values

Melissa Sargent, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly representing parts of Madison, recently wrote a poignant op-ed that was published in the Capital Times. It provided great insight into what progressives need to stand for in the aftermath of the 2016 election season.

Her essay included reasoned arguments in favor of pushing for progressive policies, and (dare I say?) sounded very...


“People support strong progressive values and legislation,” Sargent wrote, giving examples to back her case:
  • ”Progressives support public education and Republicans cut from it," Sargent wrote, singling out how the GOP gutted over a billion dollars from schools. Public education is clearly a priority for most Wisconsinites, and progressives are leading the charge on providing it the funding it needs statewide, Sargent points out.
  • On gun policy, Sargent echoes the sentiments of a majority of Wisconsinites. “Only 12 percent of Wisconsinites are against universal background checks for all gun purchases,” she writes. “Progressives don’t want to take anybody’s gun. They want guns to be safe, secure and in the hands of law-abiding citizens.”
  • Sargent also observed that while many in the state want economic growth, most do not want it at the expense of environmental protections. “Our heritage and culture are built on the protection of our natural resources and the promise of clean air and water.”
  • On marijuana legalization – yes, even on that contentious issue – Sargent brings reasonable arguments, and an agreeable position that most Wisconsinites back. She knows that, “prohibition has led to an increase in racial disparities and missed opportunities for state revenue.” And she rightly cites that 3-out-of-5 Wisconsinites agree with her that it's time to decriminalize recreational marijuana use.
This is precisely the message that Democrats need to convey to everyone they encounter across the state. Progressive values are Wisconsin values; and Wisconsin values are progressive values.

Image via Melissa Sargent's Assembly website
A few names in the Democratic Party have been suggested as possible choices to run for the governor’s office, whether Scott Walker runs again or not. But it surprises me that Melissa Sargent’s name hasn’t been among them.

Sargent’s story is inspiring enough – she has been in the legislature since 2013, but before that she was a small business owner. What caused her to take the leap into politics? Her children.

Several people in her neighborhood had urged her to run for a vacant Dane County board position. Sargent was hesitant, but when her children came home and complained about doing a community project for school, she told them to tough it out, according to Then she chose to heed her own advice and run for office, campaigning for that board position while still pregnant with her youngest son.

Her story would resonate with all of Wisconsin’s citizens. We're a hard-working state; Melissa Sargent is a hard-working legislator. And her progressive streak would embolden the Democratic Party’s base, something previous candidates for governor regrettably couldn’t do.

Those who fear that she’d be a Madison-based politician need to listen to what she says about that, too:
I am not a progressive because I am from Madison. I am a progressive because I know that government works best when it works for all of us. I know that Wisconsin is a progressive state in the sense that we believe in helping those around us. I know that when we all do better, we all do better.
Sargent is providing a strong voice for progressives following some pretty devastating defeats. Her leadership, optimism and dedication to fighting for what’s right in the state should be recognized. And she ought to be considered as a possible contender in 2018’s race for the governorship for the Democratic Party.


  1. I'm not a Wisconsinite (I'm probably going to be quite busy blogging about a potentially competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary in my home state of Illinois), but I think that Melissa Sargent would be an awesome governor for Wisconsin, if she were to run for that office and win. There's almost nothing that Sargent could be attacked over from the left by Democratic primary opponents, and, if she's capable of convincing a broad coalition of voters that her progressive policies will benefit them, she could be the strongest opponent the WI GOP has had to deal with in decades. I noticed on Twitter that GOPer Kevin Binversie is already attacking Melissa, and she's not yet announced her 2018 plans.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Aaron. Yes, I also saw Binversie attacking Sargent on Twitter (I responded to him quite a few times, in fact!). Interestingly enough, none of his attacks focused on her policies, but on her marriage. I don't see that playing out well across the state, if Sargent would want to run for gov.

  2. Oh please,, please run another Madison Progressives, it's been working so well for the Democrats since 2010.

    1. In the three gubernatorial elections since 2010 (2010, recall in 2012, 2014) a candidate from Madison has run just once – Mary Burke. In terms of her loss, Burke won 9 out of every 20 votes, while Walker won just a hair above 10 out of ever 20 votes. Much of her loss, also, was attributed to the fact that she didn't drive progressives out to vote due to her moderate stances. It is not impossible for a Madison Democrat to win the governorship either – Jim Doyle did it, twice.

    2. I'm not from Wisconsin, but, in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections in Wisconsin since 2010, here are non-incumbent Democrats where were nominated (I'm not counting 2010 U.S. Senate, since a Democratic incumbent was defeated in that election):

      2010 Governor - Tom Barrett, who is from Milwaukee
      2012 Governor Recall - Barrett
      2012 U.S. Senate - Tammy Baldwin, a progressive from Madison
      2014 Governor - Mary Burke, a centrist from Madison
      2016 U.S. Senate - Russ Feingold, a progressive from the Dane County suburbs

      The only one of those who won was Baldwin, who is probably the most left-wing of the four individuals I named above.