Tom Powell, interim District 5 alderman, may face opposition in his quest to be “re-elected” to his seat on the City Council, despite his promise to the Madison City Council that, as an appointed alder, he would not run for the special election in April.
The incumbent Powell may be challenged by UW-Madison student Mike Tate and may also be challenged by Wintford Thornton who applied for the vacant position last spring. Both Tate and Thornton have yet to make any formal announcement of their intentions to run, but Thornton has already begun distributing literature around campus, which some current alders say is in violation of state election laws.
If elected, Powell says he will continue to strive for stronger enforcement of tenants’ rights, low-income housing and homelessness outreach programs, issues which he believes resonate with students.
“I have been an excellent representative for the students, Powell said. “I’ve been the most vocal elected official on tenant-rights issues and have pushed for stronger enforcement of tenant-rights laws to protect students who have been ripped of by their landlords.”
As well as being a strong proponent of tenant rights, Powell also claims to be an environmentally minded representative.
“I have a strong environmental voting record that is second to no other city alderperson,” Powell said. “The Sierra Club named me as one of the most environmentally friendly public officials; I think that also sits well with students.”
Powell said he is not afraid of any challengers, relying mostly on his voting record and his platform to speak for him.
Tate has not yet decided whether he will run for the position. His decision is contingent on whether or not an as-yet-unnamed woman decides to run for the position.
“Recently I spoke with a young woman who is interested in running,” Tate said. “I will fully support her if she does.”
Tate refused to name the young woman, but said that should she run, he would not.
Special elections for the District 5 seat are being held this year because of a scandal last year in which UW-Madison student Jessy Tolkan had to resign her position because of mounting legal fees from a lawsuit challenging her legal residency within District 5.
When it was discovered that Tolkan was not in fact a resident of her district, her opponent in the race, Andy Nathan, filed a lawsuit asking she be removed from her position. This left a void which was filled by Powell when the City Council appointed him last spring.
Because Tate currently resides on Gilman Street in District 4, he will have to move to District 5 in order to register and run for the seat or face the same fate and humiliation that Tolkan faced last year.
“I think District 5 has seen enough carpet-baggers moving into the district to run for office,” Powell said of Tate. “The fifth district constituents deserve a resident representative.”
Tate replied that Powell’s comment was trite and meaningless.
“I think his [Powell] comment really shows how out of touch he is with students who have to deal with landlords and moving often,” Tate said. “If Tom really represented and understood students, he would stop attacking them and start trying to find answers to the many housing problems students face.”
Powell also has problems regarding his running for the seat. He was appointed to fill the vacancy under the pretext that he would not seek re-election.
“The resolution to appoint Powell contained a stipulation in it that he wouldn’t run for re-election,” Ald. Gary Poulson, District 20, and Common Council president said. “Whether or not that made a difference in the other members’ decision to appoint him, I do not know.”
Ald. Steve Holtzman, District 19, has announced his displeasure with Powell’s announcement that he would run for the position. Holtzman sent an e-mail to the other city council members questioning Powell’s ethics and his decision to run.
“He was supposed to step aside for the spring election rather than use his incumbency as an advantage,” Holtzman said. “He gave us his word [he would not run] and was appointed on that basis.”
Filing deadline for students interested in running for the position is Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2002, at 5 p.m.