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Progressive Jimmy Anderson Wins 47th Assembly District Seat

Victory Follows Initial Tensions Between Democrats Over Primary Challenge

Wisconsin State Capitol
Joseph (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Progressive Democrat Jimmy Anderson won Tuesday’s three-way Democratic primary to represent the 47th Assembly District, a race that, at times, caused tension between members of the state’s Democratic Party.

In the absence of a GOP challenger in the 47th Assembly District, which includes Monona and Fitchburg, Anderson’s primary win earned him a seat in the state Assembly on Tuesday.

Anderson’s candidacy announcement earlier this year caused a stir with some Democrats, who called his efforts a “distraction” as incumbent Democrat Robb Kahl had not yet announced whether he would seek re-election for the seat.

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“Every dollar and every door that we do for our colleague is another dollar and another door that we’re not doing in a Republican district that we can win,” Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, told The Capital Times in April. “When we pick up a seat or two fewer in the fall, I’m going to think about these so-called progressive hypocrites that went after this unnecessary seat to make themselves happy or to high-five their friends at the co-op.”

Those tensions were alleviated when Kahl announced he would not run to retain his seat. But Anderson said he never saw the race in terms of pitting moderate Democrats against progressives.

“From the very beginning, this was never about purity tests or however they wanted to frame it,” Anderson said. “It was always, did the person representing the district really represent the people of the 47th?”

Anderson said he doesn’t believe the initial conflict will complicate his relationship with fellow Assembly Democrats. He looks forward to collaborating with them, he said, and doesn’t believe his identification as “progressive” will have much of an effect.

“As much as it also means being maybe more left than most Democrats, what it means to me is just moving the ball forward, getting things done,” Anderson said.

A victim in a drunk driving accident that claimed the lives of his parents and younger brother, Anderson said he’s interested in working on legislation to reform Wisconsin’s driving laws, possibly through collaboration with Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, who sponsored legislation increasing penalties for repeat drunk driving offenses in the last legislative session.

Anderson said, however, that his commitment to drunk driving advocacy, including his formation of the non-profit Drive Clear, is a “personal” issue. In the Legislature, he hopes to also work on issues including tax policy, which he studied in law school.