Thanks to its history of political activism, Madison is a town full of bar stool, armchair and dog park campaign managers. A common question during the spring mayoral campaign — Can Satya Rhodes-Conway actually knock off Mayor Paul Soglin? — had many amateur pundits making bold predictions while others hedged and shrugged.
Everyone learned the answer was a definitive yes by 9:00 p.m. Tuesday. But the question of how she managed to do it remains.
Here are five observations pulled from an analysis of results sorted by voting precinct.
- Winner by ward
Flipping precincts like pancakes
Rhodes-Conway won 45 precincts that Soglin won in the Feb. 19 primary, including nine precincts where over 1,000 votes were cast. In addition, she won all 16 of the precincts that Mo Cheeks and Raj Shukla won in the primary.
Of the 24 precincts with 1,000 or more voters, Rhodes-Conway won 23. A pattern started emerging with the first precincts to report Tuesday night: Soglin's wins were by modest amounts in precincts with a few hundred votes while Rhodes-Conway was winning by wide margins in the precincts with heavy turnouts.
Rhodes-Conway carried the five precincts in the 13th aldermanic district, 3,573 to 1,394. The west side district is home to an intense local argument over whether Edgewood High School can host varsity games at its Monroe Street stadium. The district had a competitive race for alder, in part due to the Edgewood issue, and voters were motivated. Rhodes-Conway benefited, more than doubling Soglin's vote total in the precinct that includes Edgewood.
Another district known for participation in local elections, the near east side's 6th, turned out big for Rhodes-Conway. Marsha Rummel, who represents the area, did not face a challenger in the City Council race, but she was an early supporter of Rhodes-Conway and her district reflected that view, voting 4,716 to 1,253 in her favor, more than 3 to 1. In precinct 42, the heart of Willy Street, Rhodes-Conway got over 81% of the vote.
Millennials don't vote and they aren't engaged in public affairs, went a refrain from just a few years ago. Proving that wrong is Madison's 45 precinct. Located north of East Washington Avenue between Blair and Few Streets, 45 contains the new apartment buildings that house young professionals working in the tech sector and startup economy.
When Soglin unseated former mayor Dave Cieslewicz in 2011, 436 people voted in that precinct. This time around, nearly 1,600 people cast their ballots at Lapham Elementary School, the precinct's polling place. Four years ago, 873 people voted there, up from 436 in 2011, the election that is often considered a high-water mark in terms of spring election turnout.
Rhodes-Conway carried the 45th on Tuesday with 1,283 votes, just over 80%.