Mayor Paul Soglin and his challenger Scott Resnick face six weeks of campaigning for the April mayoral elections, although many students seemed unaware the primary for that election happened Tuesday.
Soglin approaches the ballot with 40 years of experience and seven terms as mayor since 1973. Resnick, a 2009 graduate from University of Wisconsin, became the youngest alder to be elected onto Madison’s City Council in 2011.
Resnick’s approaches to the city’s issues align with his background in entrepreneurship, his vision for a “21st century Madison” and a heavier focus on alternative solutions to Madison’s problems.
In the city’s rideshare debate, Soglin prioritizes the economic fairness to current cab companies, and has raised safety and equity concerns in opposition to the incoming Uber and Lyft companies.
State relations become top issue as UW faces cuts
With much of the political attention on campus turned toward proposed state budget cuts to the UW System, Resnick said the city needs to develop strategies to help the university defend against the cuts.
Resnick said his strategy as mayor would be to call mayors throughout the state that have UW System campuses and form an alliance against the cuts Gov. Scott Walker has proposed.
“We need to go to Walker, not as the mayor of Madison, not as the mayor of Milwaukee, but as a unified front to address the major cut to the UW System and what that means in in job loss and economic development in each one of our local communities,” Resnick said. “Paul Soglin has failed to take on Scott Walker.”
Soglin said his focus right now was on how Madison will fare with a second Walker term.
“When we look at the Walker administration, the devastation is everywhere,” Soglin said. “It’s for children, it’s for school-aged kids, and it’s for university students.”
Soglin said it is clear when it comes to UW that the government is swimming upstream in regards to building a healthy economy and state.
Former Dane County Supervisor Stu Levitan, who endorsed Soglin in the primary and supports him going forward, said the conflict with the state may work in favor for Soglin.
“We have an enemy at our gates: the state,” Levitan said. “This is not the time for experimentation. This is the time for someone we know.”
Candidates spar over future developments
Soglin, who has in the past worked on the developments of State Street Mall and the Concourse around the Capitol square and was part of the team that worked on building Monona Terrace, said he is continually working toward developing the city for economic prosperity and decreasing rent prices.
“Even though things like the Hub, Hub 2 or Ovation are not oriented toward students, their existence, creating more housing in the campus area takes pressure off the market and eases the rents,” Soglin said.
But Resnick said the city should be on board with collaborations with University Housing to ensure students have easier access to housing that is affordable. The building of additional high-rises to compensate for currently vacant high-rises shows a failed development strategy, he said.
The Hub is not targeted to students, and not to Epic employees, he said.
“[The Hub targets] folks who can afford a 50-person hot tub, and everything else under the sun,” Resnick said. “I definitely couldn’t afford that when I was a student, or even now.”
Soglin has launched initiatives to shape the developments downtown to be more family-friendly, with fewer bars. He said 70 percent of State Street used to be retail, but that is now down to 40 percent.
While more nightlife would provide more entertainment to students, Soglin said, it would shrink the competition for essentials such as food, clothing, books, household goods and furnishings.
He said he recently wrote a request to open a new motion picture theatre downtown, suggesting the opening of another Sundance.
Resnick said Soglin’s vision for State Street as a “dry, retail, good street” is one with no meaningful input from students, leaving the student voice out of how to develop the vibrant downtown area near campus.
“I don’t think Paul Soglin cares one thing about what the students of Madison think,” Resnick said.
Candidates look forward to April elections
Madison’s mayoral primary election Tuesday drew 22,338 voters across the city, giving a city-wide turnout of 12.19 percent.
In comparison, Levitan said when Soglin challenged former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in 2011, the primary saw about a 40,000 voter turnout.
“That shows how pitiful yesterday’s turnout was,” Levitan said. “It was pitiful.”
Soglin won Tuesday’s primaries with 52.7 percent of the vote, with Scott Resnick coming in second at 23.3 percent. As they were the top two vote-getters, both moved onto the April elections and defeated the three other candidates.
Resnick’s strengths lied within student wards, earning 56 percent of the vote in his campus-area district, whereas Soglin earned 37 percent. But the total turnout in the campus area was low, hovering around 1 percent at 4 p.m.
Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, said the turnout was a reflection of current mistrust of the government, a “they’re all crooks” attitude that has come from state relations.
“There seems to be just a tremendous amount of apathy by the public, almost a complete lack of turnout in the student wards,” Clear said.
Clear said this kind of turnout could work against Resnick if it occurs again in April, with students as his strongest supporters but turnover the least votes.
“Any time an incumbent gets over 50 percent in a five-way primary, that’s a good sign,” Levitan said.
Christopher Daly, a 25-year-old activist who ran in the primaries, endorsed Soglin immediately after, which Levitan said was a good sign, despite Daly only getting about 5 percent of the vote.
Resnick said the other two primary candidates, Bridget Maniaci and Richard Brown, would likely release their endorsements in the coming days.
As the third candidate with 14.8 percent of the vote, Maniaci’s endorsement will be important, Levitan said.
“I don’t think she’ll do anything in a hurry,” Levitan said. “She wants to remain a player. If she bets right, she’ll be on a committee in a year. If she bets wrong, she’s in the wilderness for four years.”
Levitan, while endorsing Soglin, believes this will be his final term.
“I can almost guarantee that Paul is the last baby boomer mayor,” Levitan said. “Our time is almost up. I think we got one more shot, one more term.”
Hayley Sperling contributed to this story. This post has been updated.