Mayor Paul Soglin easily won Tuesday's five-way mayoral primary in which Ald. Scott Resnick placed second, setting up a race of contrasting personal styles, life experiences and records in the April 7 general election.
Former Ald. Bridget Maniaci placed third, with former Dane County Sup. Richard V. Brown Sr. and newcomer Christopher Daly fourth and fifth.
Soglin, 69, mayor for 18 years, including stints in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, focused during his campaign on themes of finance, poverty, and racial equity in opportunities, emerges from the primary in strong position with 53 percent of the vote, more than his competitors combined.
The mayor, who showed strength across the city, gathered with supporters at the Cardinal Bar Downtown, where they toasted his strong showing while a New Orlean's-style jazz band added bounce to the room.
"I hope this is a signal (that) a significant majority is pleased with the administration of the city over the last four years," he said in an interview. Now, "we're going to examine the records and the proposals of the two candidates. Until now, Scott Resnick has gotten a free pass."
Resnick, 28, chief operating officer at Hardin design & Development, completing a second two-year term representing the student-dominated 8th District on the City Council, has never run a citywide race but got 23 percent of the vote and likely made inroads on name recognition and pushing his themes of innovation, collaboration and closing the digital divide.
"Today voters went to the polls and asked themselves a question: What does the city of Madison's future look like," Resnick told supporters at The Fountain bar and restaurant on State Street, where the crowd stayed fairly subdued until he took the stage to applause and cheers. "Madison is tired of the status quo and listless reactionary leadership."
The general election," he said in an interview, is going to be about the city's direction in the next 15 years. "It's about the energy and leadership style I bring to the table," he said. "We know what we're getting, both good and bad, from the current mayor."
Resnick won a smattering of wards around UW-Madison and Capitol Square.
Maniaci, 31, who spent four years representing the Near East Side's 2nd District on the City Council but passed on a re-election bid in 2013 to earn a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, pushed themes of economic development to build the tax base and addressing homelessness and poverty. She got 15 percent of the vote but didn't win a single ward, not even in the district she represented.
"The electorate was very quiet," said Maniaci, whose supporters gathered at Brocach Irish Pub on Capitol Square. "It was a low turnout race. People are frustrated and burned out over the last four years.
Maniaci said Soglin's incumbency and Resnick's self-funding brought them advantages in the primary. She said she's unsure if she'll endorse either candidate.
Brown, 57, a systems accountant with the county controller's office, gathered with supporters at Northside Family Restaurant on the North Side. "I guess they're happy with the status quo," he said. "Experience didn't matter. Color is still a factor."
Brown said he likes Resnick, but wasn't prepared to make an endorsement Tuesday night.
Daly, 25, was with supporters at Mickey's Tavern on the Near East Side. The voters "are saying Paul has done a very good job and believe in his ability to lead the city. Resnick is trying to buy the office." Daly said he's "absolutely" endorsing Soglin.
The primary race was relatively low key with three candidate forums, no debates, and candidates pushing messages through social media and traditional means.
The race for campaign cash was uneven. Soglin and Resnick each tallied about $80,000 in donations between July 1, 2014, and Feb. 2 but built their coffers in different ways. Soglin got the most cash from donors, $78,781, but Resnick secured the most money, $81,285, including $50,000 in loans from himself to his campaign. The others raised lesser amounts.
The Soglin-Resnick matchup is intriguing because both have held city office during the last four years and have records on budgets, initiatives and projects, like Judge Doyle Square, that can be directly compared.
During the campaign, Resnick emphasized a vision based on consensus building, community leader engagement, and open and transparent government with a theme of ideas and innovation.
He has stressed collaboration and put out a six-page set of "bold ideas" that included some specific initiatives. Those included a preliminary program to subsidize some lower-income families needing child care and developing a 24-hour child care facility, and creating a facility that provides nighttime emergency shelter to meet the needs of a large segment of the homeless community and those struggling with addiction and mental health problems.
Soglin, meanwhile, pushed his record and vision for the future. In his current term, Soglin touted stopping $16 million in tax incremental financing (TIF) assistance for The Edgewater hotel redevelopment, reduced borrowing, reasserting neighborhood resource teams to connect with residents to better deliver city services, promoting neighborhood centers, youth internships and jobs and a $24.2 million plan to develop low-cost housing.
The future, he said, is about more employment Downtown, bus rapid transit service, a public market that creates new jobs and businesses, neighborhood centers that are job-training and business incubators, improving the bicycle system and enhancing child development from birth through high school graduation.
It will also be a test of funding, as seriously contested mayoral campaigns can cost each candidate around $250,000. Soglin has raised big bucks before. It's unclear if Resnick can do the same or if he can or will spend more of his own money. The next finance reports are due March 30.
State Journal reporters Nico Savidge and Abigail Becker contributed to this report