The only thing we know for sure about Brenda Konkel is that she is not running for Council again. The candidacy of Sam Stevenson, a young Progressive Daner in the 2nd district, put that prospect to rest. But is she going to run for mayor, and if so, does she have a chance?
Most Madison politicos who are not emotionally tied to PD say that Mayor Dave is going to get re-elected easily. However, there are some who hold hope that a "perfect storm" could toss Dave out in a manner similar to Mayor Sue Baumann's defeat in 2003.
The possibility of a Cieslewicz defeat rests heavily on the low turnout in Spring elections, especially among the less engaged voters with whom the "Mayor Dave" brand is most effective. Students would be a prime example. The gap between turnout in students wards in fall elections and Spring elections is much more drastic than in other parts of the city.
Although many progressive activists who liked Cieslewicz in 2003 have cooled towards him over the years, few of them feel there is a viable left-leaning alternative. Ken Golden is viewed as a centrist, or perhaps even a conservative in Madison terms, as is Noel Radomski.
But could those two siphon center-right, pro-business votes away from the incumbent, leaving him to battle for many of the devout lefties with Konkel?
I would guess that Konkel's viability is based largely on the intensity of anger towards the mayor in progressive circles. Even those who agree with Konkel's politics and trust her as a connoisseur of city policy acknowledge her political shortcomings --losing an aldermanic race against a 25-year-old political novice is not an ideal stepping stone to the mayor's office.
If Konkel runs, she will have to do a lot to convince the silent, liberal majority in Madison that she is an effective leader, and not just a very effective thorn in the side of her political enemies. My gut tells me that many who admire Brenda as a watchdog will still hesitate to pull the lever for her in the booth.
The effort to change Konkel's image would have to start on day one, and it would entail immediately reaching out and gaining supporters outside of the Progressive Dane sphere. Her candidacy could not simply be an invitation to protest the incumbent; it would have to offer a vision for economic development in the city, including engagement of the business community.