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Madison mayoral candidates as of 12-11

Madison mayoral candidates, clockwise from top left: Satya Rhodes-Conway, Paul Soglin, Toriana Pettaway, Raj Shukla, Eric Koth, Nick Hart, Brenda Konkel, Maurice Cheeks.


Months out from the 2019 election for Madison’s next mayor, a large and diverse field of candidates is forming.

The field now includes incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin, despite a previous announcement in July that he would not be seeking reelection.

The mayoral election is April 2, 2019, with a primary scheduled for Feb. 19, 2019.

Here's a rundown of the candidates who have entered the 2019 mayor’s race as of Sept. 12, listed in the order they announced. It will be updated if/when others announce their candidacies, and when candidates withdraw from the race.

Satya Rhodes-Conway: The former City Council member announced her candidacy in May. She represented parts of the city’s east and north sides, from East High School to Warner Park, as an alder from 2007 to 2012. She served with former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Mayor Paul Soglin.

Rhodes-Conway is the the managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a “think-and-do tank” based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She runs a national learning network for mayors and their staff focused on equity, sustainability and democracy.

“It is up to cities to lead now, and we need city leaders who are ready for that and are able to take on that role,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I’m ready to do that whether that’s on climate, racial equity, housing, transportation.”

Maurice Cheeks: The west side alder and vice president business development at MioSoft Corporation announced his bid for mayor July 12. He said he is running to address inequality in Madison. Cheeks was elected to the council in 2013 and represents District 10, one of Madison’s most diverse areas. He was also elected the Council's president pro tem, now called vice president, in 2015.

“I’m going to be really focused on working to reduce racial and economic inequality in our city and, in doing so, I’m going to fight to build a forward-focused economy that grows and diversifies Madison’s middle class,” Cheeks said.

In Cheeks' campaign announcement video, he said Madison “can’t afford to rest on our laurels and neither can our mayor.” When asked if that was a critique of Soglin, Cheeks said that the “job is too important to be anyone’s back up plan.” 

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Brenda Konkel: The Tenant Resource Center executive director announced her campaign for mayor on Twitter July 15.

Konkel formerly represented District 2 on the city's near east side for four terms before losing the seat in 2009. She said it is time that the city start address issues such as affordable housing and equity.

“I go to meetings all the time and alders talk about their priorities,” Konkel said. “At a big picture level they get what the issues are that people care about, but at that practical everyday, real level, those issues aren’t being addressed.”  

Raj Shukla: The River Alliance of Wisconsin executive director announced his bid for mayor in July. Shukla is also the chair of the Madison Sustainable Committee and said climate change is a top priority in addition to housing and Madison's transportation system.

"We can tackle really difficult problems if we commit to bringing a whole range of new voices to the table,” Shukla said.

Toriana Pettaway: Madison's racial equity coordinator joined the race for Madison mayor in September. Pettaway is the city’s first racial equity coordinator. She previously worked as a project manager for the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development and as a human resources specialist for the state of Wisconsin.

“We are all Madison,” Pettaway said. “I want to bring about a better position of inclusion for all of our residents in the city that includes ... an equitable policy that engages a better transportation system, better housing options for all of our residents.”

Michael Flores: The former Madison School Board member filed his declaration of candidacy with the Madison clerk's office but said Nov. 27 he plans to withdraw from the race. Flores, who works for the Madison Fire Department, was elected to the school board in 2014. He opted to not run for re-election in 2017.

Nick Hart: The local comedian has filed his declaration of candidacy with the Madison clerk's office. Hart also ran for mayor in 2011 in a primary election against then-Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and current Mayor Paul Soglin.

Hart said he wants to use his name recognition and humor to tap into Madison’s “bar crowd,” or who he describes as the part of Madison that does not participate in municipal politics.

“You can’t really be a progressive city if you have a quarter of the population voting in local politics,” Hart said.

Paul Soglin: Reversing course from remarks he made in July that he would end his multi-term career as Madison mayor when his term expires next spring, Paul Soglin announced Oct. 19 that he will seek re-election in 2019. Soglin, 73, was first elected as mayor in 1973 and has served three terms in the position: 1973–1979, 1989–1997 and 2011 to the present.   

“We’ve moved from being off the radar to being in a new league, but we are not established and we certainly can’t rest on our laurels,” Soglin said. “I’d really like to put us in a position where there is no relapse, that we institutionalize our ability to innovate and create, to be edgy.” 

Eric Koth: The 24-year-old local software developer graduated from UW-Madison in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and computer science. He said the top challenges facing Madison are the price of housing and the city’s homeless population.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.