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Sen. Dianne Hesselbein elected as Senate Democratic leader


Sen. Dianne Hesselbein elected as Senate Democratic leader

Dec 01, 2023 | 8:04 pm ET
By Baylor Spears
Sen. Dianne Hesselbein elected as Senate Democratic leader
Entrance to Senate Chambers in the Wisconsin State Capitol. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)

Senate Democrats elected Sen. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) on Friday to serve as the new Wisconsin Senate Minority leader, filling a vacancy left by Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison). 

Hesselbein beat Sen. Kelda Roys of Madison and Sen. Jeff Smith of Brunswick to succeed Agard, who is stepping down after announcing on Thursday that she is running for Dane County Executive next year. The Senate Democratic Caucus met on Friday afternoon via a Zoom call to vote.

Sen. Dianne Hesselbein elected as Senate Democratic leader
Sen. Dianne Hesselbein official legislative photo.

“I am beyond honored to have earned the confidence of this inspirational, hard-working and talented group of Senators. I am proud to lead such a strong group the rest of this session and into the year ahead,” Hesselbein said in a statement following the vote. “Working together we have great opportunities ahead of us. As leader I will ensure that everyone has a voice. I pledge to make every member of our caucus – and the people we represent – a priority.” 

Smith, who is the current assistant minority leader, congratulated Hesselbein in a statement, saying she will provide “solid leadership heading into a difficult and exciting year.” 

“We have a lot to do to continue the prep work needed to build a strong Senate Democratic Caucus and majority,” Smith said. 

The change in leadership comes at a crucial moment when a Wisconsin Supreme Court case that challenges the state’s legislative maps has given Democrats new hope as they look to pick up seats in the 2024 election cycle. Wisconsin Democrats currently make up 11 of the 33-member Senate.

Hesselbein worked in the state Assembly from 2012 through 2020 where she served as the assistant minority leader for multiple terms before being elected to the Senate in 2022. Before the state Legislature, she served on the Dane County Board of Supervisors and on the Middleton-Cross Plains Area Board of Education. 

During her time in the Senate, Hesselbein has served as the minority caucus chair.