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Assembly race to be a rematch
MONROE - Two candidates who have faced off previously for the 51st Assembly District of Wisconsin are once again vying for the seat Nov. 6.

Incumbent Rep. Todd Novak, a Republican, defeated Democrat Jeff Wright in 2016 by fewer than 800 votes. Novak was first elected to the position vacated by current state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, in 2014 by less than half a percentage point over then Democratic candidate Dick Cates.

Now with two terms served, he said he feels pride at his accomplishments, aiming to achieve more if elected again.

"I had a really good session this year and I got a lot accomplished," Novak said, noting his favorite was the "not political" process of helping fourth-graders in Mineral Point get a bill passed to officially make cheese the state dairy product. "I feel there's still more to do."

Wright, assistant superintendent of Sauk Prairie School District, said he intends to run for the legislative seat for "a lot of the same reasons" he ran in 2016.

"I want to make decisions to ensure the great communities of Wisconsin are even better 20 years from now," Wright said.

The 51st Assembly District includes portions of Green, Lafayette, Iowa, Sauk and Richland counties. A resident of Bear Creek township north of Spring Green, Wright grew up in central Wisconsin and returned in recent years with his wife, Emily, to raise their children, and chickens, just east of Plain.

Novak grew up and eventually served as editor of the newspaper in Dodgeville. He was elected as mayor of his hometown in 2012 and was re-elected for the position as the only name on the April 3 ballot. Novak said running for office against people he respects is a difficult part of elections but added that he has more diverse campaign priorities than Wright.

"Not to take away from Jeff, but he's a school superintendent and that's his focus," Novak said, adding that he too champions education funding, but as one of a number of topics. "I think that's a big difference."

But Wright said he has more to offer than passionate support of education as an educator and a parent. He said infrastructure and development are just as important, adding that "education is certainly an important part of economic development."

The Novak for Assembly Committee had $29,422 in cash balance at the end of 2017, with $31,618 in contributions during 2017, according to the state Campaign Finance Information System.

The Jeff Wright for Assembly Committee had $2,706 in cash balance at the end of 2017, with $192 in contributions during 2017, according to the CFIS.

Novak said he has been "very involved with Alzheimer's and dementia issues" and noted restoring $2.6 million in aid funding for care specialists throughout the state was something he felt "very passionate about." Novak said he was also glad to author a measure recently approved by the state as part of a larger push for school safety, which allows schools to apply for a share of $100,000 in grant funding.

"I want to continue on that path," Novak said, noting he voted against the first proposed state budget last year because he felt it needed to include more school funding. "It's very important to continue on the path of funding."

Wright also said he wants to bolster infrastructure through improved internet access in rural areas and increased funding of roads and bridges within the state. He and Novak agree more funding needs to be made toward land conservation.

"I want to start restoring our history of conservation in Wisconsin," Wright said. "We haven't been living up to the long-standing tradition of protecting our air and water."

Novak said he voted against the Foxconn development, a deal brokered between Gov. Scott Walker and a Taiwan-based technology company, because Novak's constituents did not approve of it. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters has criticized the deal because of its exemption to environmental laws.

"People know I'm there for them and I pay attention to what people want," Novak said. "Representatives should be independent, and I think I fit the mold. People know who I am and with me, you get what you see."

Wright indicated voters wanted to see a change.

"I believe people want those in Madison to work on problems so we're not passing them along to future generations," Wright said. "I'm looking forward to bringing a new voice to the state Capitol."

- Steve Prestegard of the Plattevile Journal contributed reporting to this story.