Although low voter turnout is expected and a lack of local anticipation for spring Election Day is a longtime trend in Madison, student-populated districts may see changes in representation after Tuesday. Candidates running in the two mostly student districts are still campaigning for votes.
Incumbent Ald. Tom Powell is facing off against challenger Ron Rosner in the City Council special election for the District 5 seat, and Sup. Echnaton Vedder, District 5, and political newcomer Ion Skillrud are vying for the District 5 County Board position.
The special city election is being held to fill the District 5 seat that Powell took over on an interim basis after Jessy Tolkan resigned last spring after a legal battle over her residency.
New district boundaries that took effect in January redrew the district to encompass a greater non-student population than in previous election years. Both candidates said balancing the concerns of the student and non-student constituencies is a challenge.
Rosner, a long time resident of the area, said his retirement allows him to devote a large amount of time to addressing the concerns of all his constituents, including students.
“I think I can be more effective than my opponent because I think I’ve learned how to work with people effectively,” Rosner said. “I’m not going to be shooting from the left side and running the risk of alienating my colleagues on council.”
Powell said his one-year experience on the council as well as his presence on campus as a student himself allows him to effectively address student concerns.
“On student issues my opponent comes from the Regent Street-neighborhood mentality which is distinctly different from the university mentality, and there really is this clash of cultures,” Powell said.
Though city government traditionally addresses more student-oriented issues than the County Board does, both candidates for District 5 said the board is still important to students.
“The county has a role to play in ensuring that students have advocates defending their interests,” Vedder said. “For example, we fund the Tenant Resource Center, and that’s something we need to keep on funding.”
While Skillrud said the County Board is limited in its control over many student issues, he said areas like affordable housing and the Rape Crisis Center are important issues the county has influence over.
“You can make all the promises in the world, but you have to realize the limitations of the County Board,” Skillrud said. “I think students want realistic leadership, someone they can relate to, so that if an issue does arise, they have the right person in charge.”