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Health Care, Criminal Justice On Agenda For Wisconsin's First Muslim State Legislator

Courtesy of Samba Baldeh
Rep. Samba Baldeh made history as Wisconsin's first Muslim elected to the Wisconsin Legislature. His top agenda items are to expand health care programs and implement criminal justice reform.

Newly elected Rep. Samba Baldeh is the first Muslim member of the Wisconsin Legislature. Before becoming a representative, Baldeh, an immigrant from Gambia, served on the Madison Common Council. He now represents Wisconsin’s 48th Assembly District.

As for what Baldeh hopes to accomplish, he says he wants to expand health care programs, like Medicaid, so that struggling communities have proper access to medical care.

Criminal justice reform is also on the top of Baldeh's mind, he says, not only in terms of police reform but also in keeping people out of prison.

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As Baldeh enters the Legislature, he acknowledges that he is entering into the minority party as a Democrat, but he says he is committed to his agenda in a non-partisan way. “The water we drink does not know Republicans, it does not know Democrat, what it knows is people are drinking it and the issue of employment, doesn’t know who is a Republican and who is a Democrat,” he says.

WUWM's LaToya Dennis' full interview with Samba Baldeh.

From reading past positions of state Republicans, Baldeh believes he will be able to form relationships with them to make progress on his and their agendas.

He acknowledges that people have put trust in him to deliver on his agenda and that weighs on him. "That also makes it’s even more challenging, that if people have all this trust in me, believing in my agenda and my advocacy and my work, then it is also a big weight on me to make sure I deliver," he says.

While Baldeh is the first Muslim member of the Wisconsin Legislature, he says he will not govern based off of any religion, rather he will use what he has learned from his faith to advise his decisions.

“It’s more about not how I connect with my God, but what my God has advised me to work with my community,” he says.

For Baldeh, that means helping his neighbors and giving back to those who are struggling.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.