Kimberly Smith Is Running for the Wisconsin District 80
Navigating the Urban-Rural Divide
|Kimberly Smith is running for the District 80 Assembly Seat
that represents portions of Dane, Green and Iowa Counties.
And now, Smith wants to get involved in the public discourse of our day.
“Over the course of the last year, I’ve just seen the way that things have gone, especially in terms of race relations,” Smith said. “I joined a group called Oregon
Allies. I also joined Fountain of Life Church on Badger Road for a little bit. I just felt this call to engage with politics and be an advocate where there wasn’t any.
Most of the Black legislators who write laws and bills are in Madison and Milwaukee. I feel like if we are going to make changes and make headway and squash
racism, we really have to have representatives throughout the state. I just wanted to step up for my community because I also have a big mouth. My husband says
to me, ‘You’re just a keyboard warrior.’ I say, ‘No I’m not.’ And I thought maybe I am a little bit. I was trying to find my way and my niche and my voice was being
stifled living in a very white district. I thought, ‘What is the biggest, boldest thing I can do?’ And that was run for assembly or run for county board and just put
myself out there.”
And so Smith decided to run in the Democratic primary against incumbent Sondy Pope for District 80 assembly seat. District 80 is spread over Dane, Green and
Iowa Counties It encompasses parts of Fitchburg, Oregon, Verona and Mt. Horeb. It is primarily suburban and urban and many parts of it lie within Madison’s
economic orbit, while it is still a rural farming community.
District 80 is a lot to know and so Smith has set out to get to know its people as best she can with a pandemic era.
“I have had the pleasure of talking to quite a few people,” Smith said. “People don’t know me very well obviously, so I had to go door-to-door as safely as I could,
of course. From what I’ve learned about the people in District 80, a lot of people are concerned about maintaining our k-12 education and making sure our schools
are funded. I just talked with a gentleman in Fitchburg and he is very much concerned about people who are on fixed incomes, people who may be disabled or
retired. Each year, their property taxes go up and they are unable to afford things like their medication. He really brought awareness of that issue to me. There’s a
way to help with that, possibly doing a tax-credit on their income tax that kind of balances that out and negates that rise in property taxes. He explained it to me. He
worked in the Dept. of Revenue for many years. That was an education. I am so grateful that I met the most amazing people throughout the district who gave me
information that I didn’t know. I realized that I wasn’t going to do this alone. When you are a representative, it really takes engaging your constituents and
understanding their needs to represent them. It’s not like you are a dictator or an authoritarian. It’s public service. I just love that idea. I had such a warm reception
from the community. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be with COVID-19 and me being new. But it’s been really great. Every day, I get more and more pumped up
because I’m encountering people who really want to engage and they are ready for change.”
Smith is also concerned about the farming community.
“Farming has become a difficult profession to maintain,” Smith emphasized. “There is a high demand for organic farming now because people are very conscious
of the pesticides that are in our food. But it is also very difficult to farm that way. I know with the more corporate farming, that has other layers to it. I have a couple
of farm families that I can chat with to learn more. There are so many resources in this district, people who are willing to share and educate. I am so grateful for it.
For quite a while, I was a city or suburban girl and I don’t always know about the dynamics of what it takes to farm. I’ve always been a consumer of what farms
had to offer.”
If she is elected, Smith plans to work on healing the divide that is preventing Wisconsin from moving forward.
“Over the course of the last couple of years, I have found people on the other side of the aisle, Republicans, whom I have rapport with,” Smith said. “And I feel the
most important part is to move away from hyper-partisanship. The gridlock at the capitol is stopping the right legislation from moving through that will help our
communities. I feel like it is almost killing us. Especially for Black women, access to doulas is important. Forty-four of 1,000 Black women are dying during
childbirth versus a lot lower number from other races. That’s a huge issue. If we can’t come together to put in policies that help Black women, that is literally killing
Smith cited the bipartisan legislation to ease the restrictions and regulation of hair braiding as an example of emphasizing that her constituency — and the state of
Wisconsin — is more complex than the political process would give them credit for.
“Working together and building those relationships is so important because we are so torn right now and it just breaks my heart,” Smith said. “It kills me because
as I talk to people in District 80, we’re so different in our belief systems and alignments. I’ve met Democrats who are pro-life and Republicans are pro-choice. It’s
that partisanship that divides us and stops us from moving forward. And Forward is our state motto.”
As an African American, Smith knew she was taking risks as she entered the race and has had very negative comments posted on her Facebook page, but she
feels it is worth it.
“One of my goals was to help start the healing process and be a bridge for the White and Black communities because there is kind of a white community here in
Oregon, Verona and Mt. Horeb that wants to engage on race discussions,” Smith said. “I want to be a part of the group of minorities who are stepping up and
amplify our voices so that the white community gives us space to speak and we also give our community a space to speak. You can’t make changes with all white
voices. You can’t.”
By Jonathan Gramling
IIn many ways, Kimberly Smith is a product of the suburban-rural fringe that surrounds the greater
Madison area. Smith grew up in McFarland and graduated from McFarland High School. She lived
in Fitchburg before settling in to live in the Village of Oregon. She worked at Madison Newspapers
(now Capital Newspapers) in the press area before becoming a massage therapist. She briefly
opened her own business before it became a victim of the Great Recession.
She has also studied at Madison College and took some online courses at UW-Platteville in
business administration. Smith is married and they had two children. When not caring for her kids,
Smith works part-time in her husband’s business, Kopke’s Greenhouse, which he owns with two
other people. In some ways, Smith has learned a little or more about a lot of things during her
professional career. And she dreams of once again becoming an entrepreneur.
District 80 is undergoing tremendous economic and social change, especially its
larger communities like Verona and Oregon, but it can also be seen in smaller areas
like Brooklyn. And with the myriad of economic and social experiences that she has
had, Smith feels that she can best represent the district.
“Based on my life experiences, I’m going to be able to relate to the needs of this
changing community,” Smith said. “I am a mother and wife. I’m a former small-
business owner. After 17 years, we need a new, fresh perspective. I want people to
know that I hear their voices and I can’t wait to build those relationships with them
and engage with them and advocate for them. There are tons of lobbyists at the
capitol who don’t represent the families and the individuals and the small
businesses of District 80. The district needs an advocate for them and I want to be
Smith wants to become part of the diverse voices demanding change in Wisconsin.