Shorewood — With the news that Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) is stepping down from her seat in the State Assembly, four Democratic candidates have stepped up to represent the 10th Assembly District.
Bria Grant, Tia Torhorst, Sara Lee Johann and Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen will face off against one another in a Aug. 12 primary election. Because there is no Republican candidate in the race, the winner of the primary election will assume the seat currently held by Pasch, who announced in April that she would not seek re-election due to personal matters and family health circumstances.
The 10th Assembly District was redrawn through redistricting in 2011 and now includes Shorewood and the north side of Milwaukee. Pasch has endorsed Bowen to fill her seat. Of the four candidates in the race, only Torhorst lives in the 10th Assembly District.
Bowen, who lives in the 800 block of 24th Street, was elected in 2012 to the Milwaukee County Board. He received a bachelor's degree in educational policy and community studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is a National Americorps Service Alum, a two-time graduate of the Americorps program Public Allies, and a Legacy Foundation Youth Activism Fellow.
Torhorst, of Shorewood, has 17 years experience in nonprofit and government. She currently sits on the Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Board and is the political director for Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's campaign. She has previously worked for the Wisconsin AIDS Fund, Milwaukee Bar Association and the National Partnership for Women and Families. She received a bachelor's degree in medical microbiology and immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Grant, who lives in the 5100 block of Keefe Street, has worked with agencies such as Career Youth Development, Social Development Commission, Wisconsin Community Services, faith-based organizations and group homes. She is also a founding board member for Janus College Preparatory and Arts Academy. She received her bachelor's degree in human service from Springfield College.
Johann, of Bay View, is an author, former attorney and a Democratic political volunteer who also ran against Sen. Alberta Darling in 2000. She earned a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master's degree in international relations from St. John's University.
The candidates explained their positions to voters at a forum hosted by Grassroots North Shore, a progressive advocacy group, at the Shorewood Public Library last week.
Neither Bowen nor Torhorst supports the private school voucher system, with Torhorst saying it is a "failed social experiment that hurts our kids." Johann said she doesn't think the voucher system should be eliminated, but believes private schools should be held to the same standard as public schools. Grant also said families should be able able to send their kids to a private school on a voucher but thinks a more fair funding formula should be created so public schools are not disadvantaged.
All of the candidates agreed that more research should be done before Common Core is adopted in local school districts.
All of the candidates agreed that more should be done to prevent minorities and low-income people from being arrested for minor offenses. Torhorst said there should be more resources available for counseling and education. Grant said there should be more training for police officers, whom she said are not trained to mediate situations. Bowen agreed that minor offenses, such as possession of marijuana, should not be prosecuted.
When asked about the state's job readiness programs, Bowen pointed out that he authored the county's living wage ordinance, which raises the minimum wage to $11.32 for workers contracted by the county. Bowen also authored a policy for 300 young people to get free birth certificates, which sometimes presents an obstacle for low-income people to getting a job or entering job training programs.
Johann said she would like to see the minimum wage raised to $10.10 an hour and eventually raised to $15 an hour.
Grant said her work helping people get access to training programs has shown her that the state doesn't realize the barriers that it presents to low-income people, such as requiring a driver's license or birth certificate. She said the state should be more flexible with meeting the needs of those lower-income populations.
Torhorst said she would like to see job training more available to women by offering wrap-around programs, such as stipends and on-site child care. She also said she wants to bring politicians from other areas of the state to the north side of Milwaukee to humanize the people who depend on state programs.
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