One week down, four more to go until the primaries. Today, we focus on some noteworthy local state assembly and senate races.

The 8th assembly district on Milwaukee’s near south side is wide open  after incumbent Pedro Colónannounced he would not seek reelection to the seat he has held for 12 years.

Independent candidate Ramona Rivas will find out on Sept. 14 who she will face  in the general election when 8th district Democratic candidates Laura L. Manriquez, Angel Sanchez and JoCasta “Joey” Zamarripa are narrowed down.

Manriquez did not respond to questions provided by TCD, but a fundraising letter spells out her campaignplatform. She will focus on providing training and placement of workers in a changing economy and a living wage for all citizens. As an LPN, Manriquez says she will work to provide affordable, accessible, proacive health care for all.

Zamarripa’s campaign includes a website and an extensive door-to-door effort. She also has a three-pronged focus – crime prevention, property tax relief and education. Zamarripa wants to work closely with the Milwaukee Police Department to ensure they have the resources needed to keep the community safe. She would also like to see an increase in youth programming and job training to provide alternatives to crime.

Zamarripa believes that the reduction in state shared revenues is the direct cause of increased property taxes and wants to see that Milwaukee receives its fair share of those funds to decrease the burden on property owners. On education, Zamarripa would like to see more state aid for MPS, and also wants the district to be held to high standard of achievement. She supports parents’ rights to decide where to send their children to school, but as a legislator she will work to make sure that tax dollars for education are used wisely and that any school receiving public dollars, whether it be MPS or a voucher school, is meeting expectations..

Zamarripa is employed as an Educator and Community Outreach Coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

Sanchez is a small business owner and a former Milwaukee Alderperson, representing the 12th district from 2000-2004. Sanchez’s campaign focuses on crime reduction and small business development.

The other assembly race getting attention in Milwaukee is the 10th district, due to the retirement of incumbent Annette “Polly” Williams and the election statement of Independent candidate Ieshuh Griffin. Stepping up to grab the Democratic nomination are Elizabeth Coggs, Stephanie Findley and Sherman Hill.

Coggs is part of a political dynasty, with her parents serving in the state legislature and three cousins holding elective office. She is campaigning on her 22-year record on the Milwaukee County Board.

“I am an advocate for equality, jobs, justice and empowerment,” Coggs said.

She opposes the mayoral takeover of MPS and wants to find ways to provide more funding to Milwaukee’s transit system to help bring employees and employers together. Coggs also plans to focus on roads as well as health and human services.

Findley is running as the common-man candidate, highlighting that she shares the struggles and dreams of the constituents in the district.

“I would like to share my knowledge as a business owner and community leader. My goal is not to be a life-time politician, but a representative of the people and to be the voice of your values and concerns in Madison.”

Findley wants to focus on jobs and small business incentives, along with education and the state’s budget gap. Armed with a master’s degree in business management from Cardinal Stritch University, she said she has the skills  to cut spending and new revenue resources to fix the budget problems. Findley is a firm believer in high speed rail and will work to get the transportation/park services sales tax approved by voters  approved at the state level.

Findley is employed by the Milwaukee District Council 48, AFSCME, AFL-CIO and is an adjunct instructor at Bryant & Stratton College.

Hill recently retired as the executive director of the Harambee Ombudsman Project. He supports the health care bill passed in Washington, especially where it provides for preventative medicine, which will reduce high medical costs. He also wants to work on the district’s high unemployment rate, which he estimates is 50 percent or higher. Hill is unsure what programs could be cut to reduce the state’s $2 billion budget deficit, but he would like to look at adopting the toll road system already in place in Illinois and Indiana. He also supports the school voucher system, with closer oversight of teacher credentials and qualifications in voucher schools.

“The same criteria MPS teachers have, that’s the same criteria that voucher and charter school teachers should have,” Hill said.

Back on the south side, a state senate race is garnering attention. State Senate incumbent Jeff Plale is facing off against County Supervisor Chris Larson in a battle for the Democratic nomination in the 7th District.

Plale has served the district for seven years.

He said the main issue for the district is creating  family-supporting jobs. He points to his support of a microloan program to help start-ups, increased funding for work training, tax credits for companies to expand or move to Wisconsin and incentives for green companies to repopen closed factories.

“Alternative energy and green industry are key pieces of Wisconsin’s new economy,” Plale said. “We can encourage green practices at the same time that we create jobs. I authored and passed the Renewable Resources Credit bill and supported legislation creating the Green to Gold fund.”

Plale’s committement to job creation frames his position on transportation and high-speed rail. “Milwaukee is not going to be a first-class city or attract the jobs in manufacturing and business if we don’t upgrade our entire transportation system,” he said. Plale has worked closely with Sen. Lena Taylor on regional transit and will work to get the RTA passed if reelected.

Plale supported the effort to hand over mayoral control of MPS because the status quo is not working. He wants to try new approaches and increase the state’s committment to students to “go back to the drawing board as many times as it takes to improve achievement.”

He also authored legislation to discontinue the use of segregated funds to balance the general fund after the slapdown on Gov. Jim Doyle’s use of medical malpractice insurance funds to balance the state budget. He points to the transportation fund, which has been repeatedly raided for this very purpose. “Fees, fines and money meant for fund transporation projects should not be used to fill holes elsewhere in the budget.”

Larson did not meet our editorial deadline, but had shared his campaign positions with the Isthmus on Aug. 2. He said Plale has fallen out of touch with the the left-leaning constituency of the 7th and that the incumbent is more interested in courting corporate interests. To show his independence, Larson has pledged to raise 50 percent of his campaign contributions from within his district.

Larson said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and led him to run was Plale’s abadonement of the Clean Energy bill. While Plale originally sponsored the bill which would encourage the use of clean energy sources for electrical power, as the legislative session neared its end Plale raised concerns about the bill’s cost and refused to bring it to the table, essentially killing it.

On education, Larson is in favor of reforming the school funding formula which he sees as unfair to MPS. He also wants to reexamine school choice and see more accountability in the program if it would continue.

“At first (school choice advocates) said ‘we’re going to have increased competition and the public schools will also have higher standards.’ But then, they changed the goal posts, and then they said ‘well, it’s cheaper.’ Never mind the lower graduation rates, or the rising rates of adult illiteracy.”

If elected, Larson would like to serve on the Transportation and Energy Committees. He favors repairs and restoration of the Hoan Bridge, would like to see more shared revenues to Milwaukee County to revive safety net programs that have been cut and work to establish the Regional Transit Authority, along with the one percent dedicated sales tax for transportation and parks.

Larson emphasizes that he is a moderate, not a left winger. “A lot of people are painting this campaign as the Don Quixote of the left, but we’re getting a lot of support from moderates. Even some groups who endorsed Plale before are taking a second look.”

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