Mark Pocan has spent nearly 14 years in the Wisconsin State Assembly representing one of the strongest progressive districts in the state. Yet, his political roots took hold in blue-collar Kenosha, Wisconsin where he got his start at age eight delivering campaign literature door-to-door for his father, a long-time city alderman.
This divergent background made its mark on Pocan’s politics and leadership style. His reputation is strong, even among his opponents, as an official who fights hard, but fair. He can bridge political divides and set aside ideology to achieve victories without compromising his progressive values. This unusual combination earned him top ranking as “best legislator” from peers and observers on both sides of the political aisle in Milwaukee Magazine the last time rankings were compiled in 2009.
Pocan came to Madison to attend college and shortly after earning a degree in journalism in 1986, opened up his own small business – a union printing company he continues to own and run today. His active years at UW-Madison in College Democrats led to his election in 1991 to the Dane County Board of Supervisors where he served Madison’s downtown community for three terms. In 1998, he was elected to succeed his long-time friend and ally Tammy Baldwin as the state representative from the 78th District, when she left for Congress.
In his seven terms as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Pocan has earned numerous awards for both his legislative victories and his community service. He helped create the Wisconsin Quality Home Care Commission, authored the American Jobs Act and the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act, and ensured 98 percent of Wisconsinites held health insurance, as well as every child. He also focused on many progressive initiatives including the fight to restore collective bargaining rights, arrange public financing of clean elections, provide domestic partner protections and implement corrections reform.
For six years, Pocan served on the state’s powerful, budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, including a term as co-chair. He has also taken on a leading role among Assembly Democrats, running caucus campaign efforts in 2008 when Dems went from five seats down to successfully retaking the majority for Democrats for the first time in 14 years.
Every year in his career Pocan has introduced a bill to require 100 percent public financing of elections, and he also helped to pass 100 percent public financing of judicial elections. Also, he led a successful effort to ban fundraising during the budget process in the Assembly, to remove the possibility of the direct influence of money in Wisconsin’s state financial plan.
During recent turmoil in Wisconsin, in the fight for workers’ rights against attacks from Governor Scott Walker, Pocan took a visible, leading role, fighting hard for what he believes in, as a legislator as well as a union member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
Pocan’s tenacity and work as a proven legislator has not hindered his deep involvement in community groups, including his ongoing role with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, where he served for many years as a big brother. Also, an avid adventure traveler, has traveled to El Salvador and worked with Dane County’s sister community in Apartado, Colombia.
In his seven terms in the State Assembly, Pocan earned numerous legislative awards, most recently with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ Roy Kubista Friend of Labor Award for his dedication to public employees. In 2009, he was honored with the Planned Parenthood Rebecca Young Leadership Award for his successful efforts to pass the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act. He was named the 2009 SEIU Legislator of the year for his efforts to create the Wisconsin Quality Home Care Commission. Also that year, he was also awarded the Fair Wisconsin Statewide Leader award for his role in creating a Domestic Partner Registry and to provide domestic partners with 43 legal protections currently afforded to married couples.
Other awards Pocan has received include the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin Legislator of the Year (2008), Wisconsin Library Association’s Public Policy Award (2008), Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault Voices of Courage Public Policy Award (2008), Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Honor Roll (2008), Wisconsin Aids Fund award (2007), Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Conservation Champion (2006), Wisconsin Counties Association Outstanding Legislator Award (2006 & 2008), Clean Wisconsin Clean 16 Award (2004, 2002 & 2000), ACLU Special Recognition Award (2001) and the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers State Employees Council Representative of the Year (2003 & 2002).
Pocan and his partner, Phil married in Canada in 2006. They live just a few miles from the state Capitol, with their dog, on Madison’s downtown Isthmus.