Council fixture Rosemary Lee speaks with downtown alder Mike Verveer, framing a conversation between realtors' lobbyist Phil Salkin and mayoral candidate Ray Allen near the elevators.
Room 103 of the City-County Building in Madison is quite busy as the business day draws to a close on Tuesday afternoon. "There have been quite a few public registrations, or at least rumored registrations," says Second District Ald. Brenda Konkel. While she is waiting for a Common Council Organizational Committee meeting in the next room, the uncontested incumbent is trying to keep track of the candidates coming in and out of the clerk's offices.
Konkel is keeping track of the candidates filing for office, and is having a hard time getting updated information from the clerk's office. "I asked to see the basket of information, and they wouldn't even do that," she says. "More disturbing is that I was here on Friday to see a final list, and they didn't tell us it was a day behind."
"This is the most candidates I've seen filing at the last minute like this," Konkel says. "Clearly the Clerk's office is stressed out over it."
There are several others waiting around the room: Alders Austin King, Jed Sanborn, Lauren Cnare, Tim Bruer, Isadore Knox, Paul Van Rooy, and Robbie Webber. Also present is Lisa Subeck, a 2005 candidate for the first district who is supporting Aaron Backer against incumbent Sanborn in the southwest corner of the city. District 18 candidate Andy Lindgren arrived nearly an hour before the office closed, remaining in the room with the growing crowd of observers. District 20 candidate Gary Poulson is also waiting there, looking to see if he will be running in a primary along with Thuy Pham-Remmele.
I would like to know what kind of competition I will have, primarily to see if I have a primary," says Poulson.
Then there is the media, including one print reporter and a TV crew ready to go nearly 45 minutes before closing time.
As 5 p.m. approaches, more candidates, elected officials, and other interested observers trickle in to get the final word on the cast for this spring's municipal elections. These arrivals include mayoral hopeful Ray Allen, Dave Cieslewicz's mayoral campaign director Megan McGrorty, southwest side alder Zach Brandon, downtown alder Mike Verveer, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) public policy director Delora Newton, and Realtors Association of South-Central Wisconsin governmental director Phil Salkin, among others.
The complete list of candidates for mayor, the Madison City Council, and the Madison school board follows below, with incumbents in italics.
Madison Common Council
Eli B. Judge
Madison Board of Education
Johnny Winston Jr.
In all, there are four candidates running for mayor of Madison, 46 candidates running for 20 seats on the city council, and seven candidates running for three seats on the school board.
As has been growing clearer for many weeks, the Madison Common Council will see a dramatic shift in membership following the general election on Tuesday, April 3. There are nine open seats, meaning as many current members are stepping down. "I've never seen so many candidates running," says uncontested incumbent Mike Verveer, who hasn't had an opponent since 1999. "This could be a recent record in terms of how many primaries will have to be held in February."
In all, there are the seven districts with at least three contenders, all of which will see a primary election on Tuesday, Feb. 20. These are Districts 6, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, and 18, encompassing many areas of the city, though particularly concentrated on the near east and north sides. All 28 of these candidates will need to work quickly to get their names out their and gather support, as there are barely six weeks remaining until the primary.
Delora Newton of the GMCC shares that she is "very pleased" by the number of persons running. "I know a lot of the candidates, don't know who some of them are, recognize some very credible names, and think there will be some very seriously contested races," she says. The chamber will be endorsing council candidates in early February, following a process in which they send out questionaires and subsequently invite selected candidates for interviews through the rest of this month.
Newton says their questions for prospective alders will focus on matters of economic development. "Do council candidates understand business issues, the difference between things that have good intentions and those those tha impact jobs," she highlights as one example of their line of thinking. Emphasizing that they would not want to see a return of the mandatory paid sick leave proposal, Newtown did not give any examples of programs they would like to see on the city's agenda. "For us, the absence of legislation is preferred," she says. "We think any regulations should be handled at the state or federal level."
Newton also says that while the GMCC will not be making an endorsement in the mayoral race, they will be sponsoring a debate between the final two candidates sometime in March.
Then there are only six uncontested candidates, three of whom (Bruer, Verveer and Compton) are the only remaining members of the body who served during the last century. "There will only be a couple of us that have more than six years of experience serving on the council," Verveer says. "There will be a huge learning curve for a lot of folks," he continues. "Some of us were joking that there may not be enough alders to pair up as alder buddies."
Also running unopposed is southwest side alder Zach Brandon, first elected in 2001. "When you look at the sheer number of races that have fielded multiple candidates, it is a recognition of hard work, so I'm flattered," he says about running unopposed. Brandon's legislative priority remains best value contracting, which may remain under consideration through the elections. "Workforce development has become my next big agenda item, instead of economic development," he explains. "Workforce development boils down to good jobs and good wages."
Brandon also says he's pleased with the size of this year's field. "From where we were two years ago with nearly half the council running unopposed, coupled with a full field of mayoral candidates, it's one good thing about Madison's elections," Brandon notes. "In one swoop you can change the entire composition of the council."