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Briefings: Amaad Rivera Returns to the Ballot…as a Cheesehead…

Amaad Rivera

It’s a reboot of “Amaad about You,” but set in Wisconsin… (via Twitter/@amaadir)

In only a few months, what had looked like a sleepy election cycle in the 413 has heated up considerably. Legislative races have popped up across the region’s populations centers. Another name familiar to the Valley has also filed for a race this month—but not in Massachusetts.

Former Springfield City Councilor Amaad Rivera has entered the race for an open State Assembly seat in Wisconsin. Rivera last ran for office in Massachusetts in the 2018 Democratic primary for the Hampden Senate District.  Since then, he and his now-husband moved to Green Bay where Rivera—now Rivera-Wagner, post nuptial—is chief of staff to the mayor.

“I’m running to steer us away from the chaos and conspiracy theories that have seeped down from the state house and bring a clear focus to what truly matters: building a brighter future for our families, small businesses, and our neighbors,” Rivera-Wagner said in his announcement statement.

While Green Bay itself has welcomed Rivera-Wagner, Wisconsin has been through a turbulent period. Despite being 50-50 in state and national elections, aggressive gerrymanders after the 2010 Census made it all but impossible for Democrats to win either legislative chamber in Madison.

As a tipping point state in 2020, Wisconsin had been a front in efforts to overturn the election’s results. Rivera-Wagner himself had featured in some groundless conspiracies about the 2020 election in Green Bay. He has said this experience contributed to his return to electoral politics.

While the state Supreme Court recently forced the breakup of the gerrymander, a Democrat currently occupies seat Rivera-Wagner is seeking. Both his boss, Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich, and the outgoing incumbent rep, Kristina Shelton, have endorsed Rivera-Wagner.

Kristina Shelton

Rivera-Wagner’s would-be predecessor Rep Kristina Shelton (via

“He brings a wealth of experience, from his career in government to serving on local boards and initiatives,” Shelton said in a statement on Rivera-Wagner’s campaign Facebook page. “But what makes Amaad a good fit for this role, is how he takes his love for this city and community and turns it into actions that help everyday people.”

Although he held office in Springfield only briefly, Rivera-Wagner’s tenure overlapped with a historic period in the city. He had run in the 2009 election, Springfield’s first with ward-based Council seats in 50 years. While unsuccessful, he was able to fill a vacancy that arose in late 2010.

During those early years of ward representation, the Council began flexing its policy-making muscles. Rivera-Wagner pushed through a landmark foreclosure ordinance. Though the courts later blocked it, Rivera-Wagner had a hand in other policies. The Council also rescinded the biomass permit and passed language access ordinances. Rivera-Wagner sponsored progressive resolutions supporting immigrants and labor.

While reform efforts failed then, Rivera-Wagner featured prominently in discussions about police reform. In short, this period saw more debate on policy which would continue for years thereafter.

Rivera-Wagner did not seek a full term in his ward seat in 2011. Instead, he ran at-large and lost. He returned to the policy realm, working for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Senator Ed Markey. He had also worked on Governor Deval Patrick and Markey’s campaigns and Question 2 in 2016.

Amaad Rivera

Rivera-Wagner running for office as a Packers fan. (via Facebook/Rivera-Wagner campaign)

In 2018, Wagner-Rivera sought office again, this time the State Senate. Galvanized by gun reform activism after the 2018 Parkland shooting and his own experience with gun violence, he ran against then-Senator James Welch. A major point of contention Rivera-Wagner emphasized—and Welch disputed—was the latter’s ostensibly stellar rating from gun rights groups.

This bid, too, failed. (In 2020, Welch lost to then-Springfield Councilor Adam Gomez, who briefly ran in 2018 before Rivera-Wagner entered the race.) Rivera-Wagner and his husband moved to Wisconsin in 2019.

Should this bid be successful, Rivera-Wagner would be the first person of color to represent Green Bay in Madison. He had previously made history as first openly-LGBTQ Springfield City Councilor.

Democrats in Wisconsin are looking to make history, of sorts, too. Although Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ended gerrymandering in both chambers last year, only the Assembly could see party control change this year. In other words, Rivera-Wagner could become part of the first Democratic majority in Madison since the rise of the Tea Party.