Senator Olsen retires and Rep Ballweg pounces on first dibs

I have been active with marijuana reform for over a decade. Both Senator Olsen and Rep. Ballweg seemed sympathetic back in 2009 while the Republicans were in the minority under a Dem controlled legislature. 2010 changed as Republicans took control and basically killed everything marijuana related, always. Since then, I really think both these legislators failed on the issue. During 2019, Assembly Republicans worked on the issue and prefiled a bill for the 2020 legislative session to create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin (Assembly Bill 750 / Senate Bill 683) which both Senator Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Ballweg (R-Markesan) failed to co-sponsor. 

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Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon)

It was hinted at for the last year or so Senator Olsen would retire. During this past session 2019-2020, I did not get any response from his office on anything I did. I called, email, tried to set an appointment ….. but was ignored. His staffer did join Rep. Ballweg and myself in 2018 at a joint meeting. Neither he nor Rep. Ballweg has co-sponsored any bills regarding marijuana reform.

I most recently met with Rep. Ballweg in January 2020 to discuss the Republican Assembly Bill 750. She told me she would not be co-sponsoring that legislation and to date as offered no bills of her own either.

Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan)
Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan)

The most recent news Rep. Ballweg made was her announcement to seek the Senate District 14 seat of retiring Senator Olsen.

Markesan, WI… State Representative Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) announced today her candidacy for the 14th Senate District.

“Serving Wisconsin in the state assembly has been a true honor, and I’m excited to announce my run for the state senate,” said Ballweg. “During my tenure, I have represented the values and interests of the residents of the 41st Assembly District and Southcentral Wisconsin.”

“Since first being elected, I have pushed for less regulation and common-sense measures that benefit my constituents,” Ballweg continued. “In the state senate, I will continue to listen to and connect with the concerns and interests of those at home and do all I can to be their voice in Madison.”

The 14th Senate District is currently held by State Senator Luther Olsen, who announced he will not seek re-election.

“I want to thank Senator Olsen for his service to Wisconsin and the 14th Senate District,” said Ballweg. “Luther has represented me and my neighbors well in both the assembly and senate. He’s been a good friend and partner in the legislature. I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Ballweg was first elected to the state assembly in 2004. Before that she served as Mayor of Markesan where she still resides with her husband, Tom. Together, they own and operate a farm equipment business in Waupun and a lawn equipment store in Beaver Dam.

Before Rep. Ballweg had made this announcement, Senator Luther Olsen had already faced strong competition from Democrat and Ripon local Nathan Zimdars, along with Democrat Joni Anderson. I did reach out to both the Zimdars and Anderson campaign earlier this year and each responded they are in favor of moving Wisconsin forward with marijuana reform. Zimdars had the more positive response saying he supports both medical and recreational, as Anderson just said she does support reforming the laws. I know two other Republicans in the area that are considering a run for office and they had indicated they were waiting for the Senator Olsen announcement, as well as what Rep. Ballweg was planning……..hopefully I can report more soon!

The 14th District of the Wisconsin Senate is located in central Wisconsin, and is currently composed of parts of Adams, Columbia, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Outagamie, Waupaca and Waushara counties

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