Samba Baldeh is the Democratic Nominee for the
my American community and Madison District 17 is just to say that anything and everything is possible if you work hard,” Baldeh said. “I hope kids of color
especially can get inspiration from what I’ve been able to accomplish so far within the political domain. And there are so many other people that they can look up to
as role models. I am looking forward to really working with them as much as possible to involve them as citizens as much as possible so they are part of local and
state government and their interests are heard and listened to.”
Baldeh is gearing up for January when he will be sworn in to the Assembly and he is already planning on what needs to be done. The lens that he is using to view
policy needs right now is a COVID-19 lens, which has laid bare the inequities in society and the huge disparities that people of color face. Legislation will be needed
on many fronts.
One of the chief policy areas that comes to mind is healthcare and specifically the expansion of Medicaid.
“Medicaid expansion is huge,” Baldeh said. “I think the federal dollars are there. Why is it that we don’t go and get that money and get about 40,000 of our population
get health insurance? The money is already allocated through Obamacare. And so why is it that we are not accepting that money to come to the state? Other states
are using our own taxpayer’s money. Their citizens are a part of Obamacare. And so that should be Number One. But also with our healthcare providers, what COVID-
19 has also revealed is that we are not ready for some situations, a pandemic like this. So I will also look into opportunities to make sure that our healthcare
workers are protected and that next time PPE is always available and they are able to take care of patients who may be exposed to other airborne diseases that we
may not even know about yet.”
The adequate funding of public education is another.
“The key policy I would push in the area of education would be funding k-12 education and early education like daycare,” Baldeh said. “When I was at the city of
Madison, I increased the childcare department funding by $2 million. I will be interested on Day One to be able to make sure that kids of color and poor kids
generally have access to early education and that would include childcare. I think the reason why children are not able to focus and do well at school is because
parents are not able to be there for them and parents have no access to quality daycare. And so Day One, my effort will be to make sure that there is enough funding
for poor kids to have access to quality education.”
This funding is definitely needed in light of COVID-19.
“People from poor families learn best in person, but now learn at home,” Baldeh said. “As you know, for a long period of time, schools that have closed and kids are
Zooming from home for classes. Recently some schools have opened and others are doing hybrid. And some are going face-to-face with in-class teaching. But it is
kids of color who are struggling. Even without the pandemic, it was already difficult for them to graduate and have access to quality education. That problem is
being amplified with COVID-19. And so, education is really, really an important issue. It is important because it also leads to why many people of color end up in
prison. Having access to education at a very early age is proven to be the best time for kids to develop skills to get a good education. With COVID-19, many of those
things may just go down the drain to the extent that many kids of color will be left behind. And the likely outcome of that is that many will end up being incarcerated. I
think education is going to be a big challenge. I support local schools work to relieve the burden of taxation among homeowners. Governor Evers said that he is
going to fund the schools. The promise that state government made to schools is to fund them at least at 60 percent. I will push for that to happen soon.”
With the murder of George Floyd and the arise of the spring and summer protests, Baldeh feels that criminal justice reform needs to come to the fore.
“You hear everyone say, ‘Systematic racism and Black Lives Matter’ all the time,” Baldeh said. “I think it is the time for the criminal justice system to be reformed. It
is time to focus on the criminal justice system reform. Wisconsin trails most of the nation in criminal justice reform. The government needs to reduce the prison
population. It has gone up by about 70 percent. And so I think that is going to be key in this coming election. When you look at Dane County, we are about seven
percent of the population, but about 43 percent of the arrests. There are a lot of disparities around the criminal justice system and there is a need for reform.”
Baldeh feels that state government needs to consider policies that will deal with evictions of people unable to pay their rent or mortgage once the moratoriums are
lifted and the special pandemic funding ends. He also wants to see state government enact policies that encourage home ownership among people of color.
“With regards to housing, what I’ve been doing in the city is to advocate for down payment assistance for people who are first-time homebuyers,” Baldeh said. “The
other thing that I have been advocating for in the city is as a member of CDBG is to make sure people who are applying for WHEDA and are doing affordable housing
have access to community development programs and funds in order to make housing affordable to poor people. State government has much more leverage over
resources than we have in the city. If elected, I will definitely advocate for funding for housing to make sure that poor communities have access to affordable
housing. We also need to make sure that policies are in place that really are favorable for people of color being able to buy homes in the state of Wisconsin. We are
trailing and are last when it comes to home ownership for Black people in the state of Wisconsin. So I think it is important because it leads to wealth. It is important
When Samba Baldeh is elected to the Wisconsin 48th District Assembly
Seat in November, he will become the first African immigrant and first
Muslim to serve in the legislature.
By Jonathan Gramling
Little did Samba Baldeh know when he began his journey from The Gambia in West
African going on 20 years ago that he would end up being the representative for the
Wisconsin 48th Assembly District this November. Baldeh beat three opponents in the
Democratic primary in August and now faces a 19-year-old Republican opponent in
November. More than likely, Baldeh will be elected in November as a Republican hasn’t
been elected to the position in recent memory.
Baldeh will be the first African immigrant and first Muslim to serve in the Wisconsin
legislature. While Baldeh doesn’t speak of this unless it is brought to his attention,
nonetheless, he feels a special responsibility due to his status as the “First.”
“To my immigrant community, but also my African American community and generally to
that we write policies that are fair to communities that are struggling to buy homes.”
Baldeh supports the increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour and knows that state
government will also need to enact legislation that will allow small businesses to recover
once the pandemic is behind us.
“Our economy is not working for everyone,” Baldeh emphasized. “I think over 30 percent of
restaurants around Wisconsin will not open again. With COVID-19 and social distancing and
all of the measures that come with it, understandably, small businesses are going to be
impacted the most, especially the restaurant businesses. How do we rebuild that economy? I
think that is going to be an important point as we move towards the election.”
While state government has made voting more difficult in the last 10 years, Baldeh feels that
voting is such an important citizen responsibility that it should be made easier.
“If I could get my way, I would propose legislation for voting to be automatic,” Baldeh said.
“As soon as you reach the voting age, you are automatically put into the voting polls and get a
notice in the mail that you have now eligible. You don’t even have to go out of your house to
get registered. As soon as you are eligible to vote, you are automatically put on the voter rolls
and the verification is sent to your house.”
And Baldeh also believes that fair electoral maps need to be instituted.
“I support a non-partisan committee or group to redesign our districts,” Baldeh said. “I do not
think it should be done by politicians or any political party. I don’t think politicians should tell
voters who they support. The districts should be demarcated in a democratic and fair way.
That is an important thing that I will be advocating for. But I think an independent, non-partisan
body should be the ones who decide and not a Democratic body or a Republican body. When
Republicans are in control, then they gerrymander the districts. The same thing is true of
Democrats. So we want to make sure that the demarcations are fair and non-political.”
There is a lot of work to be done in the Wisconsin legislature next year. Baldeh is ready to
fulfill his responsibilities as a legislator and to the community.