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Madison elections

A voter fills out a ballot at the Revival Ridge Apartments polling location Nov. 6, 2018. 

With the mayor’s office and all City Council alders up for election this year, Madison voters will encounter a crowded and competitive ballot for the spring election, many of them set to be contested in the Feb. 19 primary.

As of the election filing deadline Wednesday at 5 p.m., five candidates are set to challenge incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin, who is seeking re-election. The number of challengers dropped by one Wednesday when former Tenant Resource Center executive director and City Council member Brenda Konkel announced her departure from the race.

Candidates for mayor include:  

  • Incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin, first elected as mayor in 1973 and previously served from 1973–1979 and 1989–1997. He has held office since 2011 when he defeated former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.  

  • Satya Rhodes Conway, managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy and a former alder

  • Maurice Cheeks, District 10 alder and vice president of business development at MIOsoft Corporation

  • Raj Shukla, executive director of River Alliance of Wisconsin and chair of the Sustainable Madison Committee

  • Toriana Pettaway, the city of Madison’s racial equity coordinator

  • Nick Hart, local comedian

Michael Flores, a former School Board member and Madison firefighter, and local software developer Eric Koth also dropped out of the race.

In 2015, four candidates ran against Soglin with Scott Resnick, StartingBlock entrepreneur in residence and COO of Hardin Design and Development, pulling through to the general election. Five candidates ran for mayor in 2011 when Soglin won the general election against incumbent Dave Cieslewicz. 

The most competitive local spring City Council election to date was in 2007 when 14 City Council seats faced competitive races, with eight of those featuring primary elections. Four candidates ran for mayor that year with Cieslewicz securing a victory. 

This year, 11 of the 20 City Council seats will face contested elections. Of those, four districts will have a primary election. The spring election is April 2 with the primary election scheduled for Feb. 19.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, has represented the downtown district since 1995 and is one of nine alders seeking re-election. 

“It’s a time of great anticipation now, and it will be more so in April,” Verveer said.  

In addition to Verveer, Alds. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1; Shiva Bidar, District 5; Marsha Rummel, District 6; Paul Skidmore, District 9; Arvina Martin, District 11, Sheri Carter, District 14; Samba Baldeh, District 17; and Rebecca Kemble, District 18, are seeking re-election. Baldeh is the only candidate facing a challenger as an incumbent.   

Eight City Council members are not seeking re-election, and three alders left mid-term. Erin Forrest, executive director of Emerge Wisconsin, which helps Democratic women run for office, said the number of open seats influences the competitive nature of elections.

“We have a lot of incumbents moving on this cycle,” Forrest said. “Any time you see that, you’re going to see more people throw their hats in the ring.”  

Former alders Sara Eskrich, Denise DeMarb and Mark Clear left their districts — 13, 16 and 19, respectively — in the middle of their term, setting up the City Council for new faces well before election season.  

District 13, currently represented by Allen Arntsen, is one of the most competitive districts with four candidates. Arntsen was chosen to replace Eskrich in August and is not seeking election.

Arntsen was selected out of eight candidates for the vacancy, illustrating the interest in the district months ago. Tag Evers, David Hoffert, Justin Kirchen and Lee Lazar are seeking the District 13 seat, which represents parts of the near west side. 

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Clear represented District 19 for more than a decade before he resigned. Keith Furman replaced Clear in August and is seeking election the west side district. One other candidate, Allison Martinson, is also running.

Michael Tierney, who replaced DeMarb, is seeking the District 16 seat in an uncontested election.

The north side’s District 12 will also see a primary election with five candidates. The seat is being vacated by longtime Ald. Larry Palm, who has represented District 12 since 2012. Prior to redistricting, Palm represented District 15 for seven years.  

Syed Abbas, Diane Farsetta, Lydia Maurer, Mark-Anthony Whitaker and James Stansfield are running for the District 12 seat.

Three candidates are vying for Ald. Amanda Hall’s District 3 seat on the city’s east side. Michael Cerro, Lindsay Lemmer and Jared Schumacker will compete during the primary election.

Alds. Ledell Zellers, Steve King, Zach Wood, Maurice Cheeks and Matt Phair are also not running for re-election. Election for their seats representing Districts 2, 7, 8, 10 and 20 each feature two candidates.

Wood did not submit a declaration of non-candidacy, meaning that candidates can file to run in District 8 through Monday at 5 p.m. 

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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.