MADISON – Two Democrats and two Republicans are running to fill an Assembly seat held by Democratic Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa.
Zamarripa, who was elected to the 8th Assembly District in 2011, is not seeking reelection to the seat on Milwaukee’s south side after being elected to the Milwaukee Common Council in April.
The Democrats contending for the seat are Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, a Milwaukee County supervisor, and JoAnna Bautch, a community organizer and director at Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
The Republicans seeking the seat are Ruben Velez, a Marine Corps veteran and nonprofit leader, and Angel C. Sanchez, a business owner and former Milwaukee alderman.
The primary is Aug. 11. The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary in the Nov. 3 general election.
Both Democratic candidates cited their past experience as qualifications to represent the district.
Ortiz-Velez said her position as a county supervisor lets her see first-hand how Milwaukee is “handcuffed” by state tax policy. She noted that she has introduced resolutions at the county level — including an effort to impose a fee on ridesharing companies — to generate revenue to “offset the state’s declining aid to Milwaukee County.”
Ortiz-Velez is running on efforts to expand the BadgerCare Plus health care program, create a source of funding for Milwaukee transit and advocate for redistricting reform. She is also a proponent of medical marijuana.
Bautch, who grew up in Milwaukee’s near south side, said she is focused on helping community members deal with the health and financial hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Her knowledge of the area will help her address health care disparities, she said.
In an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bautch added that she will “advance progressive Democratic policies” and work to make health care more affordable, as well as generate more economic opportunities for Milwaukee residents.
On the Republican side of the ticket, Velez, originally from Puerto Rico, said he grew up and went to school in the district he now wants to represent.
Velez said his time in the Marine Corps made him pay more attention to politics and “how it affected me and how it affected our military.” He started a nonprofit organization called Shield22 last year aimed at empowering veterans in the Milwaukee area.
Velez highlighted his experience founding companies, teaching self-defense in the military and helping veterans through the same struggles he went through, adding that running for Assembly will allow him to continue to have an impact on his community.
He listed quality education, affordable health care and community safety as issues he wants to target right away.
Sanchez, also a longtime Milwaukee resident, cited public safety, school choice and generating more revenue for the 8th District as his campaign’s focal points.
He called Milwaukee police “understaffed and overworked” and said he does not support defunding police, which has been one of the main demands of protesters in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Sanchez is also an advocate of full marijuana legalization. He said there are “a lot of budget shortfalls” in the state and suggested revenue from marijuana sales could fill these gaps.