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Madison mayoral candidates

Madison mayoral candidates raised and spent a lot in the spring elections. Clockwise from upper left, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, who won the April general election, Toriana Pettaway, former Mayor Paul Soglin, Nick Hart, Raj Shukla and former Ald. Mo Cheeks. 

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway easily led all candidates in campaign fundraising and spending in a costly spring election, new records show.

Rhodes-Conway, who placed a close second to incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin in a competitive, six-way February primary and trounced Soglin with roughly 62% of the vote in the general election on April 2, raised $302,311 and spent nearly all of it from Jan. 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, the latest campaign finance reports show.

“It speaks to the energy and enthusiasm my campaign generated and the desire for change,” Rhodes-Conway said, adding that she is proud much support came from small repeat donations.

Soglin, mayor for 22 years over five decades ending in April, raised $258,733 and spent about as much in the same time period. It was considerably more than he spent to win re-election four years ago. He could not be reached for comment.

The latest reports include financial activity between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year. Combined with a previous report that shows activity between Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018, the documents offer a relatively full financial picture of the campaigns.

The amount of fundraising and spending — more than $850,00 combined — dwarfed sums in the mayoral race four years ago.

“I think there was a high level of interest in the race for a number of reasons,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Some of it was part of a national narrative and a generational shift in leadership. Some of it was very Madison specific.”

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In the campaign, four of the six candidates — Rhodes-Conway, Soglin, former Ald. Maurice Cheeks, and Raj Shukla — raised enough between Jan. 1, 2018, and June 30 to make their campaigns competitive. Toriana Pettaway and Nick Hart did not raise or spend much.

“It was four people who really wanted to be mayor and ran serious campaigns and took things to the next level,” said Amanda Brink, Shukla’s campaign manager. “It was clear everyone wanted to communicate and reach out to voters in all the ways possible.”

In 2015, in a five-way race, Soglin raised and spent less than $175,000 in the same 18-month time frame. Only he and general election finalist former Ald. Scott Resnick raised more than $160,000, and Resnick topped that mark only by making $55,100 in loans to his own campaign. The third-place primary finisher, former Ald. Bridget Maniaci, raised and spent less than $30,000.

Rhodes-Conway said she knew she entered the race with a significant disadvantage in name recognition compared to Soglin and had to raise more money to get her message out.

Candidate fundraising and spending from Jan. 1, 2018, through June 30 of this year:

  • Rhodes-Conway raised $302,311 and spent $298,042. She had a $5,219 cash balance and outstanding loans of $2,163.
  • Soglin raised $258,733 and spent $258,434. He had a cash balance of $5,125 and outstanding loans of $10,700.
  • Shukla raised $149,099 and spent $151,950. He had a cash balance of $2,148, incurred obligations of $2,500, and outstanding loans of $10,000.
  • Cheeks raised $142,049 and spent $138,245. He had a cash balance of $3,804.
  • Pettaway raised $2,081 and spent $1,876. She had a $0 cash balance and incurred obligations of $2,534.
  • Hart spent less than $2,000 and was not required to file a campaign finance report.

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