Wisconsin State Rep. Steve Hilgenberg, D-Dodgeville, announced April 23 that he will not seek re-election in November and threw his support behind Democratic candidate John Simonson of rural Mineral Point.

The two-term representative from the 51st Assembly District said he is battling health issues and an ongoing back problem prevented him from campaigning for the post.

"The campaign is grueling," he said. "I do a lot of door-to-door visits and there is a lot of individual contact."

Hilgenberg said he wanted to serve three terms, but after consulting with his family and supporters, chose to bow out of the race and back Simonson, who announced his candidacy at the same time Hilgenberg publicly said he would retire.

"John and I share a political philosophy," Hilgenberg said. "We ran together in 2006."

Simon-son was defeated in a state Senate race that year by Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center.

Simonson, a retired professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, said he did not plan to run for the seat, but was approached by Hilgenberg and encouraged to seek the position.

"I'm an economist, but not the Wall Street kind," he said. "I was brought up on a dairy farm and served in the military."

Simonson said he considers himself a policy analyst and has worked on research projects in the Washington, D.C. offices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Association of Realtors, Urban Institute and participated in missions of the World Bank.

Republican candidate Howard Marklein stated in a press release April 23 that he wishes Hilgenberg and his family well during his retirement.

"Although we may have disagreed on certain issues, it is important to recognize Rep. Hilgenberg's service to our area," Marklein stated in the release. "Politics is not always a pleasant venue, and at the end of the day, it is important we all strive to work together to solve the problems facing our state."

Simonson said he will campaign on goals that include enacting clean energy regulation to spur economic growth and make Wisconsin a green technology leader, changing the way Wisconsin funds its schools and reforming the tax system.

Hilgenberg said the most important part of his time in the Legislature was devoted to providing constituent services and acting as a go-between for local residents and business owners and state agencies.

"Somebody in the State Assembly is a conduit for people to work through the bureaucracy in the state," he said. "That's a big role."

He also pointed to his work to restore funding for nursing homes in the most recent state budget, reinstating MediCare reimbursements for critical care hospitals, establishing tax credits to stimulate jobs in the dairy, meat and food processing industries and extending Senior Care as his greatest legislative accomplishments.

Hilgenberg said his work was not finished and said he believes strongly in clean energy and its ability to create jobs.

"I'm not going to say it's fun," he said about his time in the Legislature. "There are a lot of things wrong with the system, and you have to learn to work within the system.

"If you believe money has too much influence, you still have to work with that. I believe our biggest role is to work with the people in our districts."

The 51st Assembly District includes parts of Sauk County, including Sauk Prairie and Spring Green, all of Iowa County, most of Lafayette County and parts of Richland County.

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