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Nick Hart

Local comedian Nick Hart joins the race for mayor in 2019.

Fresh off a recent appearance on Conan, local comedian Nick Hart is running for mayor of Madison — again.

In the 2011 spring primary, Hart ran against Mayor Paul Soglin and then-Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, gaining 2 percent of the vote. 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.

Hart is a full-time comedian and won Madison’s Funniest Comic Contest at Comedy on State in 2017. In July, he performed on TBS’ Conan, recounting his trouble identifying scallions in the grocery store.

He previously lived in Spartanburg, South Carolina, before moving to Madison in 2003. Hart attended Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina, obtaining a degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice.

He joins six other candidates in the 2019 election. The field currently includes:

  • Toriana Pettaway, the city of Madison’s racial equity coordinator
  • Maurice Cheeks, District 10 alder and vice president of business development at MIOsoft Corporation
  • Brenda Konkel, executive director of the Tenant Resource Center and a former alder
  • Satya Rhodes Conway, managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy and a former alder
  • Raj Shukla, executive director of River Alliance of Wisconsin
  • Michael Flores, former Madison School Board member

Hart said he “soured on the process” and that his “heart wasn’t in it” during the 2015 election cycle, which he said felt like an old boys’ club. However, Mayor Paul Soglin’s decision not to run for re-election pushed Hart to declare his candidacy this time around.

“I feel there should be 25 people running,” Hart said, reasoning that a candidate only needs 200 signatures to get on the ballot — a task that could be done at a “local watering hole.”

“If I did win, I think that would change the law," he said.

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Hart said he is not interested in the “status quo or business as usual.” For example, he would like to see police officers waiting on-call in stations throughout the city and patrolling less.

Hart could not name any other policy initiatives he'd like to implement, but said he is reading up on zoning and is interested in Madison’s development. He also has plans to start a podcast to interview his fellow candidates and start a dialogue about their experience running for public office.

“I really don't know if I’m doing anything wrong just as far as the campaign goes,” Hart said. “I’m just winging it.”

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

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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.