Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


District 8 alder candidates speak on debate forum cancellation

Charlie Fahey responds to MGR Govindarajan’s statement on Fahey’s refusal to debate
Nuha Dolby

District 8 Alder candidate MGR Govindarajan released a statement March 6 in response to the cancellation of the District 8 Alderperson candidate forum. In the statement, Govindarajan claimed opponent Charlie Fahey refused to participate in a candidate debate, as well as any alternative candidate forums.

In his statement, Govindarajan said he is prepared to discuss his platform with constituents, and called Fahey’s actions undemocratic. 

“My campaign is ready to debate, have a public forum or anything that allows us to share our ideas with the voters — I understand the need for transparency among our elected officials, and I’m not afraid to share my platform with our community,” Govindarajan said in the statement.


The organizers of the event — the Campus Area Neighborhood Association, BadgersVote, the Associated Students of Madison and Chup, Go Vote! — informed the candidates that there would be no forum March 6.

The event was intended to be similar to the other two forums, hosted by the same organizers, for the District 2 and District 4 races in early February, according to an email statement from CANA. The forum was intended to provide a platform for candidates to better explain their platforms to voters and to increase voter interest in candidates. In the forum, community members, through audience and submitted questions, would have been allowed to ask candidates questions in a debate style. 

The organizers first contacted Govindarajan and Fahey about the event Feb. 23, according to email correspondences between the candidates and the organizers provided by to The Badger Herald by CANA. Govindarajan’s campaign responded the following day, and Fahey’s campaign did not respond to the initial email. 

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According to the email correspondences, Fahey also conversed with the Vice President of CANA, Cleo Le to discuss the debate via Zoom Feb. 23.

During the conversation, Fahey said he expressed some hesitation about the forum because there wasn’t much of a guarantee that undecided voters would be present at the forum. Le and Fahey discussed the possibility of alternatives to the forum in the meeting, which Le brought to the BadgersVote Coalition, according to the email correspondences. 

President of CANA, Eli Tsarovsky also reached out to Fahey Feb. 24 via email proposing a phone call to clarify misunderstandings about the debate forum, which Fahey also did not respond to, according to the email correspondences. 

Le sent a follow up email to Fahey Feb. 28 asking him to confirm his request to focus on alternative methods for the forum and was given till March 3 to respond.

Both candidates were alerted March 6 that the District 8 candidate forum was canceled on account of Fahey’s hesitation about the effectiveness of the forum for his constituents, according to the email correspondences. The email was also meant to document that the organizers did not receive any official response from Fahey’s campaign throughout the organizational process. 

Govindarajan released a public statement March 6 about the forum cancellation and Fahey’s refusal to participate in the candidate forum. Fahey’s campaign has not responded to this statement publicly. 

Fahey said he forgot to respond to the emails from the organizers because he was extremely busy with school and campaigning efforts, and even had responses typed out, but forgot to send them. 

Fahey said he would not be putting a statement out publicly in response to Govindarajan’s statement, as he believes people know his message, and he is choosing to stay positive. 

“I think generally in campaigns you go negative when you’re behind and stay positive when you’re ahead,” Fahey said. “I will remain positive and continue to discuss my platform.”

Fahey also said he was never completely against a candidate forum but was apprehensive about the effectiveness of forums in terms of outreach as in the last two public forums a large portion of undecided voters were not present. 

Fahey is still open to a debate but acknowledges that a lot of work goes into preparing for one and believes that time could be used more effectively to talk to more voters instead. 

Fahey is firmly in favor of a grassroots approach, involving door knocking, handing out flyers and talking to voters directly at campus events and public spaces. He said he wants to talk to everybody that lives in District 8. 

“What matters is the voters, what Madison’s people [are] thinking, what matters is what their concerns are, and if your platform responds to that,” Fahey said. “I can just go take my platform and talk straight to voters, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

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The candidates also differ in their endorsement strategy. Fahey said he does not greatly value endorsements and believes voters do not value endorsements either, but rather are more interested in issues and candidates’ platforms. 

Govindarajan has over 25 endorsements, according to his campaign website, and thinks they are especially important for this race. Govindarajan said endorsements help build credibility for voters, particularly those who do not know him personally, to know he will make his best efforts to carry out the initiatives he is campaigning on. 

Fahey is on the executive board of CANA, alongside Govindarajan representing the South Campus. Both candidates are running on platforms of affordable housing. Govindarajan pointed out that CANA was able to negotiate 30 to 40% of the new apartment units in ōLiv Madison to be $400 to $500 a month per person. 

To address the issue of affordable housing, if elected alder, Fahey plans to remove ordinances that make building new housing more difficult and will support improved financing structures for affordable housing, according to Fahey’s campaign website.

Govindarajan said he wants to work with the university and the city to create a comprehensive student housing plan to be able to research the needs of students and how to address them with what is possible in the downtown areas. He said the focus of apartment buildings should not be luxury amenities such as pools and gyms, as students have access to those services through the new Bakke Center and the Nick

“We just need more city support and more support from the university and with my existing connections with the university and then with the city as well hopefully in the future, I plan on bridging those connections and making it even stronger to build more affordable housing in Madison,” Govindarajan said.  

Wisconsin’s spring election will take place April 4, where residents can vote for District 8, District 2 and District 4 alders among others. The mayoral race, between incumbent 3/ and challenger Gloria Reyes, will also be on the ballot alongside candidates for state supreme court justice and ballot referendums. Details about voter registration, polling places, absentee voting and ballot details can be found at

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