Mayor Paul Soglin says he is committed to running for reelection next year.
"I think I made that clear last year," he says.
But twelve months away from the 2015 mayoral primary, it remains unclear whether the Madison political icon will face a credible challenger in his attempt to secure an eighth term in office.
"The name I keep hearing from people is Kaleem Caire," says Soglin, referring to the executive director of the Urban League of Greater Madison.
But Caire insists he's not running, saying he's focused on his current work at the Urban League. He also says he is prohibited from supporting candidates for political office, but suggests the city would benefit from a leader from a younger generation, invoking the success of Soglin's first years in office.
"Paul really did things when he became mayor that we still live with today," he said. "We got a lot of young professionals in this town, they're going to build the future of Madison."
There is at least one person who fits that description and, according to city hall insiders, is seriously considering a bid for the job: Ald. Scott Resnick, the 27-year-old who represents the student-dominated 8th Common Council district, the same one that a young Soglin represented in the 1970's.
Soglin says he hasn't heard anything about Resnick running for office.
"I have had absolutely no indication from him that he has any interest in running," Soglin says. "He and I have worked very closely together on a number of issues."
The two are indeed known to be allies. But Resnick does little to dispel the rumors.
"A number of community members have asked me to consider citywide office so I am conducting meetings and thinking about my future service," he says when asked about the potential for a mayoral bid.
The similarities between Resnick and Soglin are hard to miss.
Resnick is the same age as Soglin was when he waged his first successful campaign for the top city job against then-Mayor Bill Dyke in 1973. Like most Madison politicos, they both attended UW-Madison — Soglin came from Chicago, Resnick from Wausau — where they both became involved in political activism. They even look alike, although, like most millennials, Resnick will likely never sport a mustache without irony.
But while Soglin was involved in student activism at the height of confrontations over the Vietnam War, Resnick's political activity on campus was more low-key. He was involved with the College Democrats and interned for his hometown state Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau.
Most notably, while Soglin was in law school when he was first elected mayor, Resnick hails from the business world. After college, he helped found Hardin Design & Development, a startup firm that specializes in creating mobile applications and other software tools for companies. Now vice president of Hardin, Resnick helps oversee a staff of 15 employees that has developed apps for major clients, including CUNA Mutual, CNN and Mercedes-Benz.
If Resnick decides to run, he will need ample time to gather support and raise money to compete with the incumbent, who will likely have no problem mustering funds from many longtime supporters. Thus, sources indicate that Resnick will likely decide whether to run by May.
Since Resnick has generally been supportive of Soglin's agenda, it is unclear on what policies a potential contest between the two would center. Those encouraging a Resnick candidacy suggest that his message would emphasize the benefits of a new generation of leadership, rather picking out specific policy disagreements.
Another candidate who has long displayed an interest in running for mayor, Ald. Shiva Bidar, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment. However, many of those who believed a year ago that she was positioning herself for a run are now doubtful that she will mount a campaign.
"I'd heard her name frequently mentioned," says Soglin. "On the other hand, Shiva and my relationship has never been better."