Assembly incumbent Lee Nerison (R-Westby) continues to defy the odds in his heavily leaning Democratic district, and most expect that trend to continue in his 2016 campaign for reelection. The 96th Assembly District, however, is one Democrats will need to win if they hope to make a dent in Republican majorities in the Assembly. Challenging Nerison on the Democratic side is Alicia Leinberger, a renewable energy entrepreneur and self-described “Bernie Sanders Democrat.”
After first being elected to the Democratic leaning assembly district in 2004, Nerison has constantly been at the top of the target list for Assembly Democrats. But being on that list has not meant much. Most recently Nerison defeated Democratic challengers in 2012 and 2014 by more than 15 percentage points in each election. Even more impressive is the fact that Nerison ran 16 points ahead of Republican nominee Mitt Romney in a district that heavily favored President Barack Obama in 2012.
Democrat Alicia Leinberger announced her candidacy on May 7 to challenge Nerison for the 96th seat. Leinberger says her campaign will center around protecting working class families and Wisconsin’s natural resources.
Leinberger served for three years in the Peace Corps, volunteered in the fair trade movement, and has worked in renewable energy since 2002. Leinberger is also the founder of Ethos Green Power, a clean-energy promotion organization. In a statement, Leinberger criticized Nerison’s authorship of AB 874, legislation that would have changed permitting regulations for certain high capacity wells.
Nerison was first elected to the seat in 2004 and currently serves on the Assembly Committees on Aging and Long-Term Care, Agriculture, Consumer Protection, Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage and Veterans and Military Affairs.