Madinah Wilson-Anton, a Newark native and community advocate, is seeking to become the next representative of the 26th House District to shake up a system she says is broken.
“Our legislators are so used to how things are that they lost the imagination for what’s possible,” Wilson-Anton said. “It’s the people that are within the system now that’s not going to fix it, so we need to elect people who will.”
Wilson-Anton, a 27-year-old Democrat, grew up in the 26th District, which encompasses the southern end of Newark and parts of Glasgow and Bear. She will face incumbent John Viola, who’s held the seat since 1998, in the primary election next year.
If elected, Wilson-Anton would be Delaware’s first Muslim state legislator.
She was inspired to run after working in Legislative Hall as a fellow while studying International Relations at the University of Delaware, eventually working as a constituent liaison for several state officials.
“I was able to get a sense of how laws are created and I also got frustrated because of the lack of will from a lot of people in office,” she said. “A lot of things seem controversial in the legislative hall, but it’s not controversial at all when you talk to people in the community … Frustration really inspired me to run, because I’m tired of complaining and I want to make a difference.”
One of the cornerstones of Wilson-Anton’s platform is improving the education system. Growing up, she attended Gauger-Cobbs Middle School but later attended Charter School of Wilmington — and saw the disparity between her experience compared to that of friends who attended Christina School District high schools.
“Everyone in my class had a book and we had a librarian, whereas other high schools in the district, there weren’t enough books per student and some don’t have a librarian,” she said. “Even my husband, who took Advanced Placement courses and passed the exam, still struggled with the material in college because his AP teacher wasn’t there for the whole semester and they had substitutes.”
Reforming the Delaware education funding model is top on Wilson-Anton’s priorities, and she said charter schools are part of the problem because they divert funds from traditional public schools.
Christina has a high percentage of students that come from low-income households, special needs and also speak English as a second language, and she said funding has to meet those three categories.
“Education advocates have talked for years about this. We know what works in classrooms and how students can succeed, but right now, we don’t have the will to make that happen,” she said.
Regarding Christina’s referendum attempts, Wilson-Anton said it was not fair or equitable for communities with low-income families and further demonstrates the need for the state funding model to change.
“That way so more resources can go to schools that need more,” she said. “If we talk about it that way, I think we can get people to see we’re all on the same page. We can’t keep expecting people to vote for more tax increases.”
Other issues important to Wilson-Anton’s campaign is ensuring renters have stable housing. One of the largest communities in District 26, Glasgow Court, has faced years of uncertainty with the land owners reportedly looking to sell the property, which would leave tenants without a home.
“We’ve been talking to people in [Glasgow Courts] and they feel like they could find out at any moment they could be homeless, and that’s unacceptable,” she said. “There’s a lot of people in this district that’s renting, so one thing we want to do is expand renter’s rights and protections.”
Tying into that, Wilson-Anton has her eyes on economic justice reforms like raising the minimum wage to a living wage and revising Delaware’s income tax brackets to create equity among taxes.
“It’s at the point where you make $70,000 or you make $1 million, you’re taxed the same amount. It’s ridiculous,” she said. “If we expect people to invest in our communities, we really need to raise taxes, but we can’t raise it on people who can’t afford to pay.”
Other highlights of Wilson-Anton’s platform include universal pre-kindergarten classes, expanding existing education programs that help students get a degree debt-free, making prescription drugs more affordable and expanding Narcan funding and focusing on opportunities in the renewable energy sector to keep Delaware green.
While Wilson-Anton has started her campaign, she’s learning about more localized issues people in her district face.
“As you talk to people, it’s usually about one issue but as you keep listening, you start to realize it’s a much larger problem you realized,” she said. “It’s really important that we reach out to all communities, and they know they’re being heard.”