Neighbor calls cops on black candidate campaigning in her Wisconsin district

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Sheila Stubbs said the police were called on her as she was campaigning for office in her own district in Madison, Wisconsin. | Campaign handout, USA Today

MADISON –An African-American woman who will join the state Assembly in January had police called on her last month when she was campaigning in a predominantly white neighborhood in Madison.

“I’d never encountered that before,” Shelia Stubbs said in an interview Wednesday. “I just felt like my heart was pulled out.”

On Aug. 7, a week before the Democratic primary for the 77th Assembly District, Stubbs wasknocking on doors on Madison’s west sidewhen a neighbor called police, according to Stubbs and a police report of the incident.

The neighbor told police he suspected people in the car Stubbs was using were waiting to buy drugs, according to the police report.Stubbs’ 71-year-old mother and8-year-old daughter were accompanying her that evening.

Officer Katherine Bland spoke with Stubbs’ mother for about 10 minutes until Stubbs returned to the car. Stubbs and the officer then talked for about 30 minutes,according to video from the dash of the squad car. The video did not include audio.

Stubbs, who sits on the Dane County Board,said she was stunned, dismayed and humiliated to learn she was suspected of being involved with drugs. She told the officer what she was doing and the officer asked to see the voter list she was using to determine which houses to visit, she said.

“My daughter said, ‘Mommy, why don’t they believe us?’ ” Stubbs said.

“I said, ‘Sometimes we have to do more as African-Americans because of who I am, who we are. It’s not fair. That’s why Mommy is working so hard to change things for you because I don’t want you to go through the same thing Mommy goes through.’ ”

The Capital Times on Tuesday first reported on the incident.

Stubbs said she was angry and cried during part of her encounter with the officerbut mostly kept her composure. She said she doesn’t know who called police but would have a lot to say to that person if she did.

“This caller owes me an apology — and my family — for what I had to go through,” she said.

Stubbs’ mother, Linda Hoskins, said she was frustrated that the Madison Police Department blacked out the name of the caller in copies of the report it released publicly, particularly because the report included Hoskins’ name and her license plate number.

Hoskins said she believed the officer had a “negative attitude” in the first part of the encounter and Stubbs said she was frustrated that she had to provide so much explanation of what she was doing to the officer. But the interaction ended on a positive note, Stubbs said.

A week after the police stop, Stubbs won thefour-way primary to replace retiring Rep. Therese Berceau (D-Madison).

She has no opponent in the Nov. 6 general election and will be sworn in to the Assembly in January. She will become the first African-American to represent Dane County in the Legislature.

The incident follows a similar one in Oregon, where state Rep. Janelle Bynum had to speak with a police officer when someone claimed the black lawmaker was acting in a “suspicious” way while knocking on doors.

And in Ohio last year, state Rep. Emilia Sykes, who is black, had her bag searched by a state trooperat the Capitolwho told her, “You don’t look like a legislator.” He then added that she looked too young to be a lawmaker.

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