Let’s talk District 8 a bit. For those of you who need some background, it’s a City Council district made up almost entirely of University of Wisconsin students and includes most of the campus dorms and some of the State-Langdon neighborhood.
Since 2009, District 8 has been represented by Bryon Eagon, who has done an admirable job representing the interests of students. Eagon is leaving Madison and the council to do even more admirable things by teaching the nation’s youth in New York City through Teach for America.
On Tuesday, Eagon endorsed Scott Resnick, one of three candidates vying to replace him. As a cautious observer of city politics, the move was interesting to me for three reasons.
1) Resnick didn’t need the endorsement to get through the primary. The other two candidates are Kyle Szarzynski and Christian von Preysing-Barry. While Szarzynski has received several endorsements from the progressive progressives in this town, Preysing-Barry hasn’t done much to make his campaign seem legitimate. So, in all likelihood, the Feb. 15 primary will whittle the field down to Szarzynski and Resnick without much spectacle.
Because of this, Resnick missed out on a huge opportunity to get a boost later on in the election cycle. If, after a debate or two with Szarzynski, Eagon had stepped in and threw his support behind Resnick, his victory would be all but guaranteed. Instead, as the race for the seat goes on, Eagon’s support could easily get buried.
Think of it this way. You’re a freshman in Witte who votes sometimes. You read an article in the Herald or Cardinal about some dude named Resnick getting support from some dude you’ve never heard of in some race you’re not going to vote in because, well, it’s a primary, and who votes in primaries? Then, the day of the April election, Szarzynski sneaks in some Facebook ads or last minute coverage in the Herald, you see his name, believe his message and vote for him.
In other words, people who are going to vote in local elections probably already know who they are going to vote for. Any influence Eagon’s decision could have had on people who may decide to vote at the last minute is eliminated by doing this announcement in February.
2) A pre-primary endorsement is silly. I’ve never really understood it in partisan races, and I especially don’t understand it in non-partisan races. It is so early in the campaign season.
Blindly offering your support to a candidate without giving the issues some more time to stew is like drinking recently expired milk before smelling it. You probably won’t regret it, but if you do, you’re really going to regret it.
That’s why you won’t see The Badger Herald’s Editorial Board make any endorsements in the primary for any race this year. With maybe the exception of the mayoral race, we just don’t know enough about the people running to be comfortable with any decision we make.
3) By making this endorsement so early, the Resnick camp has declared Szarzynski to be a major threat. No offense to Szarzynski. I think his candidacy is interesting and if he plays his cards right, he could very well give Resnick a run for his money.
But Resnick has support, official and unofficial, from many in the city’s establishment. And his experience in the State-Langdon neighborhood pales in comparison to Szarzynski’s activist background. Resnick should run on that before resorting to “This guy says I’d be good!”
In closing, the district eight race will largely be debated online. To be frank, this newspaper is not interested in wasting valuable space to cover mudslinging rants written by the student government wonks that now infest the fledgling campus blogosphere.
But for the few things related to this race that do sneak on to the front page of the campus newspapers, those involved should keep the timing of their announcements in mind as they court the vote of John X. Witte.
Kevin Bargnes ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism. Got some thoughts on the District 8 race, or any of the interesting local races voters will decide? Shoot him an email or get at him on Twitter, @bargnes.