Time to change Assembly's tone

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Keyes offers new, less partisan perspective in Beloit's legislative interest.

AFTER THE 2010 CENSUS, when the new Republican majority was able to draw state legislative district boundaries, Beloit was split and two safe seats were, basically, mandated by political chicanery.

Urban Democrats were grouped into the 45th, where incumbent Mark Spreitzer is all but assured victory every two years.

East-side Republicans were grouped into the 31st with its more rural constituency stretching into Walworth County, where incumbent Amy Loudenbeck has been called the poster child for partisan gerrymandering.

The next census takes place in 2020, and unless Wisconsin wants the partisan politicians - from either side - to engage in the same rigging process, change must occur.

THAT'S NOT TO SAY Democrats have been trustworthy on the topic. They are not. They could have switched to a nonpartisan redistricting model when they were in the majority, before 2010, but they didn't for a simple reason - they expected to win, be in the catbird seat and rig the lines themselves to their advantage.

But three things are in play: (1) The current legislative majority has proven it will use redistricting to cheat; (2) divided government may be the only hope for forcing compromise on a new way to do this; and (3) Democrats, punished by Republican redistricting, are pretty much uniformly on record now advocating nonpartisan reforms, and it will be suicide to renege.

Whether Einstein actually said this - the matter is disputed - the thought is spot-on: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

LOOK, AMY LOUDENBECK is a good person, a hard worker and she's attentive to constituent service. She cares about the community and her district. On most run-of-the-mill legislative activities she's fair and effective. And she's always civil.

But when it comes to those big, polarizing partisan priorities, she is not independent-minded. She does whatever leadership wants and votes in lockstep. Every time.

That included excessive partisan redistricting. It included the Independence Day weekend assault on open records. It included questionable voting rights issues, and more.

Our preference is for legislators who stick with the best interests of the people in their district, not the schemes intended only to benefit the political class.

By the way, that goes for both Loudenbeck and Spreitzer. This year, however, there's a difference.

SPREITZER DOES NOT have a serious challenge - there is no Republican candidate. You can thank gerrymandering for that, too.

Loudenbeck, though, faces a stronger challenge than she's seen in years, from Beloiter Dr. Brittany Keyes, who holds a doctorate for physical therapy. One of the things Keyes has pledged to do is go to Madison and fight for nonpartisan redistricting.

Keyes is highly educated, well spoken, has researched the issues and is committed to change. She offers an opportunity for voters to begin adjusting course away from the excesses of one-party control.

We'll repeat: We like Amy Loudenbeck and have endorsed her in other years. She's the favorite. She'll probably win in her gerrymandered district. If so, we know she'll work hard.

But while Wisconsin does not need a hard lurch to the left, the hard-right governance of the past eight years has worn thin because it often overreached in ways that benefit party over people. A course correction back toward the center is due, and Dr. Keyes could be part of that.

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