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Two Democratic Socialists from Milwaukee prepare to take office in the State Legislature

Left to right: State Assembly representatives Ryan Clancy and Darrin Madison
Greg Anderson, the WI State Assembly photographer.
Left to right: State Representatives Ryan Clancy and Darrin Madison

Milwaukee's long history with socialism begins a new chapter on Jan. 3 when two Democratic Socialists from the city will be sworn in as State Representatives in the Wisconsin legislature.

Darrin Madison, Jr. and Ryan Clancy recently spoke with WUWM.

Madison won a Democratic primary in August to replace David Bowen, who's leaving the state legislature. Madison was unopposed in his general election bid for the 10th Assembly District seat, which mainly includes part of the north side of Milwaukee, as well as Shorewood, and Glendale.

Assembly District 10
Assembly District 10

Madison says as a Democratic Socialist he's interested in public oversight of how the economy functions.

"So, we'll always be pushing for people in the working class, and never in big business," he says.

Fellow Democratic Socialist Ryan Clancy is a Milwaukee County Supervisor who ran unopposed in August and November to replace 19th Assembly District lawmaker Jonathan Brostoff and represent Milwaukee's East Side and Bay View neighborhoods.

State Assembly 19
State Assembly District 19

Clancy says at the county level, he helped low-income families facing eviction get free legal help. At the state, he hopes to get across the idea that housing should be guaranteed to everybody.

"The perspective that it's a basic human right is fundamentally Socialist, and that often our framing of issues will be different, even if our votes are the same as our more traditionally Democratic colleagues," Clancy says.

Madison says while the legislative committee assignments he gets will affect what he's able to do at the State Capitol, he hopes to apply his experience working for the group Youth Justice Milwaukee to change how the state runs its youth prisons.

"This isn't like, tomorrow, youth prisons close, right? It's building systems that ensure young people's needs are met, and they have the opportunity to repair the harm if they committed a crime that directly harmed someone. But also, ensuring that entire communities are part of a young person's rehabilitation," Madison says.

State Assembly chamber in Madison, WI.
Chuck Quirmbach
State Assembly chamber in Madison, WI.

Clancy says it's frustrating that discussion over a state youth prison planned for Milwaukee's northwest side is more focused on location, and not how to reduce youth incarceration.

On another issue, Clancy says he'll support calls by Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to get more shared revenue from the state, but not begin a local option sales tax.

"Sales taxes are inherently regressive. They fall harder on poor and middle class families. They hurt the working class more than the income tax does," Clancy says.

Madison says he'll resist calls from Republicans that Milwaukee consolidate services before the city can get more state aid.

"All the folks who have different thoughts on Milwaukee don't understand what it's like to navigate decision-making for this niche populace. Most diverse populace in the state. High needs," Madison says.

So, can the two new Democratic Socialist lawmakers get along with Republicans who control the legislature? After all, some Democrats are getting out because they fear the GOP will control the Senate and Assembly for the next eight years due to Republican-friendly district maps.

Madison says there could be some cooperation with GOP members from other parts of the state.

"In having real conversations that relate to shared revenue. There's an active interest in having conversation as it relates to creating family-sustaining jobs, right?," he says.

Clancy says he also senses the chance that Socialists and Republicans can get along.

"I only can hope that Republican leadership will allow the folks in that caucus to play well with us, and to work on that common ground and get some things passed to benefit the working class," Clancy says.

Clancy and Madison will be office mates inside the State Capitol. They say they plan to caucus with Democrats.

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