With just one week until the Madison mayoral election, candidates Satya Rhodes-Conway and incumbent Paul Soglin gathered for a debate on the University of Wisconsin campus Tuesday evening.
College Democrats of UW-Madison, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, Vote Everywhere of UW-Madison and Elections Research Center of UW held the event at the Humanities building.
Because both candidates identify as progressive, much of the debate centered around how they differ in their individual views on various issues. Rhodes-Conway centered many of her responses around one theme, collaboration, while Soglin chose to take the attack to his opponent and focus on his record as mayor of the city for 22 cumulative years.
After claiming he would not run for mayor again, Soglin announced in October he had changed his mind. When asked during the debate about why this was, Soglin said there were three things that made him change his mind.
First, when he realized Gov. Tony Evers would likely win the gubernatorial race, he wanted to be able to work with Evers after working under former Gov. Scott Walker.
Second, Soglin said he was getting pressure from the community to run again— particularly from the business community and people of color.
“The third factor had to do with my obligation to the people in the community and working with you and making a difference,” Soglin said.
One big difference between the candidates is experience.
Soglin was first elected mayor of Madison in 1973, a second time in 2011 and a third time in 2015. When he was not serving as mayor, he was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Rhodes-Conway moved to Madison around 20 years ago for an environmental internship. She served for six years on the Madison City Council representing District 12 and has spent 13 years as the managing director for the Mayors Innovation Project.
“The challenges that Madison’s facing haven’t really changed in the 20 years that I’ve been living here and my opponent has had 22 cumulative years in office to tackle them, but they’re still facing us,” Rhodes-Conway said.
The issue of climate change is one many Madisonians are concerned about, and both candidates have similar takes on the issue, but slightly different ideas of how to solve it, particularly concerning transportation.
Soglin hopes to create incentives for people not to use their automobiles and at the same time focus on decreasing the city’s carbon footprint.
He cited the city’s current improvements that have happened under his administration, such as working on an electric bus fleet and purchasing hybrid police cars. Additionally, new city buildings are being built with increasing amounts of solar energy.
Mayoral candidate Satya Rhodes-Conway surpasses Soglin in fundraisingMayoral candidate Satya Rhodes-Conway has surpassed incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin in campaign fundraising a new report said. Rhodes-Conway raised $125,754 Read…
Rhodes-Conway wants to take a comprehensive look at all of the city’s operations to see how it could become more environmentally friendly.
Specifically, she wants to focus on how to make public transit more accessible and convenient to use.
“[Madison Metro] works for me because of where I live and where I work right here on campus,” Rhodes-Conway said. “It doesn’t work for people in other places on the outskirts of the city or who work second or third shift. We have to improve the transit system so it actually works for working people.”
Climate change and other issues the city faces are not unique, but they are solvable with new leadership and organization, Rhodes-Conway said. She hopes to find the best policies for those issues to help the city grow.
Soglin said he is not finished serving the city as mayor as there are many more issues he wants to tackle, as well as continue with the progress he has made thus far as mayor.
“I’m asking to finish this job,” Soglin said.