Candidate Q&A: Assembly District 79 Democratic Primary | local government
A former staffer of incumbent Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, is running for her seat against a former NASA employee in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary for the 79th Assembly District.
Covering parts of Middleton, Verona and Cross Plains, the district has a 43-point Democratic bias, according to analysis by Marquette Law School researcher John Johnson. The winner will face Republican Victoria Fueger in the November 8 election. The term is two years.
Address: 703 No. 3 Cricket Lane, Middleton
Family: Married with one child
Use: Program Director at The Little Gym
Before elected mandate: Dane County Council Supervisor since 2020
Other public service: Policy Advisory Committee for the Madison Beltline Planning Study and Environmental Connections; Town of Middleton Community Strategic Planning Committee; Council of New Leaders – Wisconsin; Dane County Youth Commission and Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center Board of Directors
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Education: Bachelor of Public Administration and Political Science from UW-La Crosse
Address: 7201 Sawmill Road, Madison
Family: Married with two children
Use: Founder and CEO of Archer Geographic
Before elected mandate: None
Other public service: member of the Middleton Preschool Board, 2002-05; Scientific organizer FLL Robotics and Destination Imagination from 2011 to 2016; Member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society team from 2019 to 2020
Education: Masters in Natural Resources from Colorado State University; BA in Economics and Political Science from Hope College
Email or website: www.votevotava.com
Questions and answers
Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Joers: I grew up on the shores of Lake Mendota in the Spring Harbor neighborhood of Madison, my family moved to the Saks Woods neighborhood of Middleton where I got my start in community service organizing blood drives for the Red Cross and I graduated from Middleton High School. After returning from UW-La Crosse, I went to work in the State Legislature as a political aide for progressive champions, including our current representative, Dianne Hesselbein. During my outreach work, I was able to understand the real issues facing families in our community. I will be able to make heard the voice of the will of the people which is suppressed in the Legislative Assembly. I’m used to investing in our community, serving as a local leader, and working hard to get results.
Votava: I am a small business owner, defender of our natural resources, longtime owner in the district, and father of two graduates of our public schools. I can draw on a varied career that spans almost 30 years and includes working with a wide range of public and private entities. As an entrepreneur, I appreciate new ideas and different ways of approaching our problems in order to solve them. I am an experienced leader who can successfully advocate for the people of our district.
What unique expertise would you bring to the office?
Joers: I know how to get things done in government, from environmental conservation to strengthening our democracy, I can use my experience to benefit the people I hope to represent. Our next state representative will need to have a clear understanding of the challenges we face, including helping small businesses recover from the pandemic, championing access to health care, especially reproductive freedom, and lobbying for common sense gun safety solutions. I have taken up these challenges at the local level and will continue the effort at the state level.
Votava: I am a former NASA specialist working within the Mission to Planet Earth to develop innovative approaches, technologies and partnerships to understand our changing Earth and our impacts on our natural resources and environment. This experience laid the foundation for the company I founded and led, focused on solving complex land, water and infrastructure issues. This expertise is needed in our state legislature, and I will work passionately for the future of Wisconsin’s natural resources.
What should be the Democrats’ top priority if the Legislature continues to be controlled by Republicans?
Joers: Our democracy is under attack from conspiracy theorists and radical politicians who don’t want to listen to the voters who elected them. Our top priority is to regain a majority because Democrats are ready to govern and make progress on the issues that matter to the people of Wisconsin. The gerrymandered Republican Legislative Assembly will not loosen its grip on power without a fight. This means that we need effective messengers representing the will of the people. The people of Wisconsin want our federal dollars back to expand BadgerCare, provide common sense gun safety solutions, restore reproductive rights in our state, address the climate crisis, and adopt a plan for fair cards.
Votava: While standing firm on our principles, we must find a way to work together to advance the things that matter most to the citizens of our district and state. Excellence in public education, centered on valuing our teachers, is critical to the success of our state and requires adequate funding. I also believe that it is possible to reach a consensus on natural resource issues and on state infrastructure, as well as on targeted public investments to improve access to health care.
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