Madison Alder and Common Council President Syed Abbas has announced his candidacy to represent the newly-formed 37th District in the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Until 2021, the 37th District included areas north and east of Madison in Dane, Dodge, Jefferson and Columbia Counties, including the cities of Columbus and Watertown, and has been represented by Republican William Penterman since a special election last July. Republican Representative John Jagler represented the district for nearly 10 years before that.
In new electoral maps based on the 2020 census, the 37th will add Sun Prairie and parts of Madison’s north and east sides, swinging its constituency heavily to the left and giving it a much deeper urban/rural divide. The maps have been approved by Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but they are still being appealed. Still, Abbas said it’s likley any additional changes will happen in districts in the Milwaukee area, and the 37th is likely to remain as drawn.
Abbas said in his years representing Madison’s east side on the common council, he’s worked to listen to a variety of viewpoints, and will continue to do so in the Assembly.
“I collaborate, I bring everybody to the table, and really make sure regardless (whether) I agree or disagree, I hear them and make sure their voices get heard,” Abbas said in an interview Friday.
He also noted that issues he’s championed such as workforce development and environmental justice are important in both urban and rural communities.
“In addition to exacerbating some of the socioeconomic challenges we’ve been dealing with in the country and communities around the State of Wisconsin, COVID has added its own challenges,” Abbas wrote in a campaign announcement. “The issues of workforce development, inflation, environmental justice, and racial equity need great leadership and bipartisan efforts. My track record is clear on this. If given the opportunity to represent you I will continue to listen and engage. Good leadership is all about uniting and not dividing people. My work championing policies and ordinances around sustainability, affordable housing, racial justice, and investing in local communities and small businesses, are just some of the few examples I plan to pursue for District 37 and the great State of Wisconsin.”
Penterman has said he intends to run in the adjacent 38th district, which would require him to move. He currently lives in Columbus.
Abbas, who describes himself as “a first-generation immigrant from Pakistan,” relocated to Madison from New York in 2014 and was elected to the Common Council in 2019. Professionally he is director of education and training and Slipstream and serves on the board of directors of the United States Green Building Council. He was named one of Madison365’s most influential Asian American leaders in 2021.
Abbas said he intends to remain on the Madison Common Council while he campaigns, but would likely resign the seat if elected to the Assembly.
Abbas is the first of what could be many Democrats announce their candidacy for the new 37th District Assembly seat. The filing deadline for candidates is June 1. The primary will take place on August 9 and the general election on November 8.