With Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's long-expected announcement this week that he is running for a third term, the campaign for the city's top job can fully unfold.
And with challengers aplenty for Cieslewicz, the path to the April 5 general election should be interesting and, ideally, create a robust discussion of the top priorities for Madison.
The incumbent mayor's evolution in office these past eight years has been well-chronicled. Cieslewicz has moved from the far left to the mere left, a leap of staggering proportions for the hard-core liberal faithful in Madison and a welcome bit of relief for the rest of us.
One of the more interesting aspects of this mayoral race will be to observe whether Cieslewicz's slight move to the right over the years proves harmful or helpful to his re-election bid. It's far too early to know how the mayoral race will shake out in the next four months, but we can offer a couple predictions:
• Cieslewicz will tout a record of making the city safer (by adding to the police force) and making the city more vital (by encouraging development). The incumbent has a number of success stories to tell (example: taming the city's Halloween nightmare, turning it into Freakfest, a fun and much less expensive event to taxpayers) as he heads toward a Feb. 15 primary.
• Those running against Cieslewicz — and so far five other candidates have registered for the race with more challengers possible before the Jan. 4 filing deadline — will no doubt whack the mayor for pushing big, controversial projects (examples: The Edgewater Hotel redevelopment, a new/refurbished Downtown main library and closure to the Overture Center's financial and governance woes) and for his perceived "leave it to me" leadership style that causes ire among his foes.
Amidst all that upcoming back-and-forth between the incumbent and his challengers, we urge Madison voters to do two things: tune out the yack-yack nonsense from all the candidates and tune in to the real issues the city needs to address.
Let's encourage a useful discussion in this race that focuses on the city's goals and priorities.