DODGEVILLE, Wis. — Todd Novak says representing one of the state’s few Assembly districts that is evenly split along party lines makes him work harder as a lawmaker.

The moderate Republican, who is also the mayor of Dodgeville, is running for a fourth term to represent District 51 on a platform of bipartisanship and water conservation.

“I think it makes you a better legislator to have a district like this,” Novak said.


In the Nov. 3 general election, he faces Democratic challenger Kriss Marion, a Lafayette County supervisor from Blanchardville.

The district includes most of Lafayette County and sections of Green, Iowa, Richland and Sauk counties, and previous elections have been decided by small margins.

In 2018, Novak bested Democratic opponent Jeff Wright, 13,912 to 13,189. Novak’s first win during the 2014 general election was decided by a margin of 65 votes.

If re-elected, one of Novak’s priorities heading into the next session is allocating funding in the 2021-23 biennial budget for municipalities as they absorb revenue losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Marion has chided Novak for standing by, as his party, which controls the state Legislature, fails to convene in extraordinary session to formulate a COVID-19 pandemic response plan.

With cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising rapidly in recent weeks, Wisconsin now ranks among the worst-hit states in the country.

A quorum of lawmakers in each state chamber has convened only once since a public health emergency was declared in March, at which time they passed a bill package aimed at mitigating the impacts of the pandemic.

Marion said legislative inaction has left counties fending for themselves, while Republicans simultaneously joined a lawsuit aimed at overturning a face mask mandate issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Novak pinned responsibility for the state’s pandemic response on Evers, who is charged with distributing nearly $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

“The governor has been putting things out — rules and mandates,” Novak said. “If there is something important that comes up that we need to come back for, I’ll gladly come back.”

He described with pride his record of partnering with lawmakers across the aisle, even if it means voting against his party on contentious proposals.

In 2018, Novak did not support GOP-backed efforts to repeal the state’s mining moratorium, roll back wetland protections or provide nearly $3 billion in incentives to attract Taiwan-based electronics company Foxconn Technology Group to Wisconsin.

He also co-authored measures during the two sessions to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to include a crime victim’s bill of rights — known as Marsy’s Law — which voters approved in April after it passed with overwhelming support in both chambers.

Novak likewise partnered with Democrats in 2019 when he chaired an Assembly task force on water quality.

The group developed a 13-bill package that called for $10 million in appropriations to finance water-quality initiatives, including the establishment of an Office of Water Policy, provision of additional funding for county conservation departments and creation of new water-quality improvement grants.

“The idea with the task force was not to solve all the problems in one swoop,” Novak said. “It was to build a base to build off every successive session.”

Several measures passed the Assembly earlier this year but were not considered in the Senate after the body postponed its final floor session in March.