Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The Badger Herald Editorial Board: Deception in local elections damages democracy

Following District 8 alder candidate Charlie Fahey’s deceptive campaign, The Badger Herald Editorial Board responds, makes plan moving forward
Mary Magnuson

Editor’s Note: This editorial was written by Celia Hiorns, with contributions from other editorial board members.

Coming off of the April 4 general election, some Madison voters were surprised to see how close the District 8 alder race was between MGR Govindarajan and Charlie Fahey, both University of Wisconsin students. Even more shocking was Fahey’s post-election press release that identified him as a conservative.

As originally reported by Isthmus, Fahey confirmed his identity as a Republican, even saying he supported conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly. Ahead of the election, however, Fahey did not make either of these affiliations clear.


According to web archives of Fahey’s campaign website, the top issues of his platform were affordable housing, body cameras, transportation, community and small business. His concern for these issues alone didn’t give voters much information about his political affiliations — especially since he didn’t offer much detail about how he’d like to solve these issues.

Fahey also declined to participate in a public forum with his opponent Govindarajan — he was not completely against the idea, but Fahey claimed scheduling issues and skepticism about a forum’s effectiveness. Instead, he said he favored a more “grassroots” approach, involving going door-to-door to speak to constituents directly.

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“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 in an interview with The Badger Herald. “I can just go take my platform and talk straight to voters, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

However he may feel about this approach, The Badger Herald Editorial Board felt Fahey was ultimately leaving voters in the dark when he refused to make public statements about the details of his platform. This lack of transparency contributed to our decision to endorse Govindarajan for the District 8 alder race. Compared to Fahey, we knew where Govindarajan stood on key issues and how he planned to address them.

At the time of making endorsements, we were not aware Fahey was a conservative and we found the sudden revelation of his political affiliation to be deeply problematic.

Based on the discrepancy between the fact that Fahey claimed to advocate for students and Dane County’s reliably liberal voting record, The Badger Herald Editorial Board believes Fahey knowingly deceived voters to have a chance in Madison’s District 8 election.

Though the alder position is a nonpartisan office, that doesn’t mean candidates should willfully obscure their political leanings. Candidates ultimately operate in a political system, so their political affiliations may reveal critical information about their values and policy goals. Nonpartisan races don’t occur in a vacuum and are subject to the political context they take place in.

According to Isthmus, Fahey insisted that if someone had asked if he was a Republican, he would have said yes. But, he said he didn’t “see any reason” to explicitly make clear that he was a conservative. Further, his disinclination to take part in a public forum made it difficult for voters to ask about his political leanings. This attitude demonstrates an ethically dubious attempt to obscure his intentions as an alder candidate.

According to Critical Review, without complete information, many voters use political ideology as a proxy for determining which candidate will best serve their interests. Ultimately, Fahey’s lack of sufficient information about his platform and nonpartisan categorization of the alder position gave District 8 voters very little to base their vote on.

The Badger Herald Editorial Board endorses alder candidates for Districts 2, 4, 8

Thus, Fahey’s relative success in District 8 is less reflective of his platform, and more so of the marketing strategies, including a plethora of flyers hung in residence halls and a large campaign sign in front of Gordon’s Market, from his largely self-funded campaign. This reveals deeply antidemocratic efforts to deceive voters — which is especially unsettling in local government races that many view as our country’s most democratic elections. Fahey’s campaign took advantage of voters’ lack of knowledge, abused democratic processes and may tarnish faith in local elections.

In Fahey’s press release and in a tweet from Wisconsin Republican operative Ali Beneker, both made the argument that Fahey’s success demonstrated that UW voters support conservative ideas. Beneker claimed that UW students like conservative ideas, just not the label they come with.

This claim is simply not true. Daniel Kelly’s poor performance in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race in District 8 serves as evidence that not only are District 8 voters overwhelmingly liberal, but they also did not associate Fahey’s campaign with conservative ideals. As a result, Kelly earned 11% of the vote in District 8, compared to Fahey’s 48.6%. If Fahey’s conservatism had been clear before the election, we may have seen a similar outcome.

Fahey did not respond to The Badger Herald in time for comment, but in an unpublished portion of a previous interview with The Badger Herald news team, he said it himself — voters want to know who they’re voting for.

“I think what matters is that voters know who you are, that you present your platform to them,” Fahey said. “And that’s the goal I aspire to.”

But considering how Fahey actively obscured a major aspect of his platform from voters, this comment only further highlights the extent of Fahey’s hypocrisy.

Ultimately, The Badger Herald Editorial Board strongly condemns what we view as an appalling attack on the values of local democracy. To avoid a similar situation in the future, we plan to alter our endorsement policies to encourage a more thoroughly informed electorate ahead of local elections.

The Badger Herald Editorial Board endorses Mayor Rhodes-Conway for second term

From now on, The Badger Herald Editorial Board will ask each potential endorsee about how they would characterize their political affiliation, even if they are running for a nonpartisan seat. They may choose not to answer. But, candidates’ responses to a question of political affiliation could help contextualize their platform, or lack thereof, offering more comprehensive information for voters.

Ultimately, elected offices that are technically nonpartisan often have partisan candidates, and therefore partisan consequences. Voters deserve to know what that could mean for them.

In light of these post-election revelations, Govindarajan’s victory in District 8 represents more than a positive step for important issues in Madison. His victory is also a win for democracy. Looking ahead, The Badger Herald Editorial Board hopes to use its platform to more thoroughly identify candidates with a commitment to democracy, better contextualize platforms for voters and encourage a more civically engaged electorate.

The Badger Herald Editorial Board serves to represent the voice of the editorial department, distinct from the newsroom and does not necessarily reflect the views of each staff member.

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