Local activist Nada Elmikashfi announced her candidacy for state senate, a seat held by the nation’s longest-serving legislator Democratic state Sen. Fred Risser.
“After careful consideration, I am honored to announce my candidacy for Wisconsin State Senate District 26. Growing up in Madison, I have been raised in a community that looked out for its own because no one looked out for it,” Elmikashfi said in her announcement.
Risser announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election, ending a 64-year career. Prior to this announcement, Elmikashfi and Democrat Aisha Moe both declared their candidacies. Democratic attorney and former State Representative Kelda Roys declared her candidacy on Friday.
Elmikashfi plans to run her campaign on “A People’s Platform,” focusing on equity, education, and the environment.
She found a home in Madison after immigrating to the United States at the age of 6 from Sudan. Elmikashfi served under Gov. Tony Evers in Gubernatorial Appointments, completed a fellowship with Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and organized for the political action organization NextGeneration America.
“For years, an affordable housing crisis, income inequality, and disparaging inequities in education have inflicted a second-hand citizenship on much of our working class,” she said.
Elmikashfi remembers moving around Dane County with her family as a child from one living situation to another. She never understood the reasons why her family had to move; she thought it was strange. Elmikashfi’s parents worked hard to provide for the family.
“I remember moving around a lot as a little kid and when I was older I was able to put a name to it,” she said. “It was gentrification and displacement.”
Elmikashfi said housing costs often increase while families like hers could not afford to continue paying higher rates. She said people are often pushed into poverty because of housing prices in Madison. Elmikashfi also said there is no recourse for these families that work hard but still feel mistreated by the system.
“For me, my top priority is housing reform in Madison. To me, it’s extremely discouraging. Communities in Madison are rent-burdened,” she said.
This issue is very important to Elmikashfi alongside helping build equitable, safe, and accessible education opportunities for students.
She currently serves on the Sustainable Madison Committee for the City of Madison and was recently appointed to the United Way of Dane County’s Elementary Schools of Hope Delegation.
“I think we need leadership that offers unapologetic progressiveness and I feel like we don’t have that voice right now in the Capitol,” Elmikashfi said.
She also said the senate is missing a working-class perspective. Elmikashfi’s platform includes more funding for schools, higher pay for teachers, in-state tuition for undocumented students, funding for the arts, gun reform, and a sustainable economy. She said she would push for a swift transition away from fossil fuels while ensuring a just transition for low-income workers who get their paychecks from the fossil fuel industry.
“I found what I truly believe is that there is absolutely no place forward with Republicans without a strong progressive voice in the Capitol,” Elmikashfi said.
She also elaborated on how a legislative practice of complacency has led a lot of populations within the state to feel overlooked. Elmikashfi said legislators have passed bills creating tax credits for developers to build in opportunity zones; however, they do not require developers to build affordable housing units, leaving low-income families out of housing options.
She believes there are creative solutions to many of the issues facing residents throughout the state. Elmikashfi said legislators are not always listening. She said her campaign is not about her or her opponents, but about the community.
“If my Imams at the mosque tell me they have not seen the senator ever, if you’re not hearing the issues, then you cannot affect them,” Elmikashfi said.