District 1 imcumbent Jed Sanborn and District 5 challenger Troy Thiel make their case at a forum on Wednesday morning.
Given the discrete geographical nature of the 20 districts that make up the Madison Common Council, it's a rare day when an organization looks to hold a debate featuring candidates vying to represent disparate parts of the city.
The Dane County Public Affairs Council, a group of business leaders generally considered conservative by those on the left, took a crack at it Wednesday morning, inviting eight candidates in four races to speak at a forum held in the basement of the U.S. Bank building on the Capitol Square.
Only two bothered to show up: District 1 incumbent Jed Sanborn and District 5 challenger Troy Thiel.
For the most part, the two candidates were in close agreement on most issues raised by the council's membership.
Both Sanborn and Thiel were skeptical about bringing streetcars to the downtown and instead favored improving the Metro bus system with more express bus routes, more park-and-ride lots, and employer-supported bus-pass programs. Sanborn didn't like the idea to create a regional transit authority because of its potential tax powers, Thiel was open to the idea.
Nor did the two like the proposal for neighborhood conservation districts, which would provide zoning protection for some existing housing. Both Sanborn and Thiel had nothing good to say about the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance. "It just makes me sad," said Sanborn.
More revealing were their styles as candidates. Thiel repeatedly ripped into his opponent, Ald. Robbie Webber, criticizing her representation of the near-west-side district. At the same time, Thiel still argued that there is too much of an "us versus them" dynamic in city politics.
Sanborn was cool and deliberate. Altogether ignoring his opponent Aaron Backer, Sanborn fired away at Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, criticizing his stance towards crime in the southwestern corner of the city and suggesting that recent police hires are election-year politics.
"Personally, I see a lot of reasons to question the mayor's judgment on a number of things," Sanborn said in response to a question from Phil Salkin, a council member and lobbyist for the local Realtors.
Most of the candidate invitees missed the forum, including Webber and Sanborn's challenger, Aaron Backer. Also missing were Tim Gruber and Chris Schmidt in District 11 and Larry Palm and Vicky Selkowe in District 15. Only Gruber, Schmidt, and Selkowe told the council they wouldn't show up.
Note: This item was updated to note that District 11 candidate Chris Schmidt informed the DCPAC that he would not be attending the debate.