Rob Dz is running for office

The longtime Madison MC has announced his candidacy for a Dane County Board seat.

UPDATE, January 8: Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell confirmed Friday afternoon that Rob Dz will be on the ballot in the District One Dane County Board race. Dz was able to correct two signatures previously ruled invalid. Upon further review, McDonell also deemed a third signature compliant bringing the total up to 51, one more than Dz needed to be an official candidate.

This sets up the only primary among the 37 Dane County Board races. Dz will face District One incumbent Mary Kolar and fellow challenger Adam Brabender on February 16. The two top finishers will advance to the Spring General Election on April 5.

UPDATE, January 7: As of Thursday afternoon, Rob Dz is one nomination signature short of the 50 he needs to make it onto the ballot in the Dane County Board of Supervisors race. Even though Dz turned in well over the minimum requirement, an abnormally high percentage (dozens) of the signatures were ruled invalid by Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell.

Most of the invalid signatures are not in dispute because they clearly came from supporters who do not live in District One. However, Dz is asking the County Clerk to take another look at a few of the signatures so that he has an opportunity to be included on the ballot.

On his personal Facebook page, Dz told supporters, "our team reviewed the nomination papers and we believe that we have at least two more valid signatures. The County Clerk is going to review the papers again and we will know the final word by the end of the week! Now back to our regularly scheduled hustle."

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Madison hip-hop artist Rob Dz is asking downtown voters to make his next gig a seat on the Dane County Board.

“For a while in this town, people have respected my voice through music,” said Dz. “I feel like this is the next level of using my voice to be able to affect change for the people.”

Dz will face incumbent District 1 Supervisor Mary Kolar and fellow challenger Adam Brabender in the spring primary election on February 16. The top two vote-getters will then advance to the Spring General Election on April 5.

The voters Dz—legally known as Rob Franklin—is seeking to represent live in the heart of downtown Madison, including the Capitol Square, a good chunk of campus, and the southwest corner of the isthmus. The local emcee and spoken-word artist is campaigning on a platform centered on raising wages, ending homelessness, and confronting the troubling racial disparities that divide Dane County.

“If we’re truly going to be progressive community, there needs to be progression for everyone,” he says. “I see it everyday because I live downtown. There are so many people that look at the Capitol with dreams...and hopes. And yet, it seems like they get turned away or pushed somewhere else. No dude! It’s time.”

Since moving to Madison 15 years ago, the Beloit native has established himself as a fixture of the local music community, eager to reach across genre boundaries while impressing audiences with tastes that range from classical jazz to contemporary hip-hop.

He performs frequently at the Cardinal Bar, runs a Wednesday night open mic at Genna’s Lounge, and this Thursday he’s hosting a bill of Wisconsin hip-hop artists at the Majestic. Dz also collaborated with jazz pianist and UW-Madison jazz studies director Johannes Wallman on an album set to be released this summer, and has been at work on a solo album for some time, as he told us in a December 2014 interview.

For years, Madison has struggled to embrace rap concerts downtown. Dz says he’s felt the racially charged fear that has accompanied the growth of the evolving genre but it never deterred him from trying to make a living as a hip-hop artist.

“That’s why I’ve fought so hard to deal with the truth. I don’t mind speaking up. Now it’s time to speak up for those that don’t really have a voice and it’s time to make a change.”

In addition to producing and performing music, Dz has used his love of rhyme to mentor young people involved with the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club, in the Madison schools, as well as teens housed at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center.

He’s also a familiar face at the Madison Central Library, where he teaches audio production at the Media Lab as part of the Bubbler program and works part-time as a Library Security Monitor.

Dz says his work with nonprofits has exposed him to exciting opportunities in the downtown community but also societal challenges that remain to be solved. It’s also persuaded Dz to join the recent effort to raise the living wage to $15 for county employees and services providers.

“I’ve worked at community centers where there would a mom having to drop three or four kids off...while she has to work two or three jobs,” he says. “If she has more of a fighting chance, that allows her to spend more time with her family and really do the things that need to be done.”

Dane County’s much-awaited day resource center for the homeless isn’t scheduled to open until 2017. With no other place to gather during the daylight hours, this often leaves Madison’s homeless residents quite literally out in the cold. It has also resulted in the brand new Central Library having to serve as a de facto shelter for those seeking warm, something Dz has witnessed firsthand.

“I see 50-100 homeless people a day. That’s why there’s a need to talk about homelessness.”

The political newcomer admits he has much to learn in the coming months on the campaign trail but intends to approach this new endeavor with the same attitude that has guided his career in music.

“My approach to hip-hop is based out of love. Love defeats all so how can you challenge love with hate and animosity? Whether it’s music or whether it’s politics, it’s always based out love. It’s about the bigger picture for all of us.”

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