In a race that nobody could predict, nobody had any explanations for the outcome. In his quest for a third straight term, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was unseated by former mayor Paul Soglin by a slight margin. Early unofficial results showed Soglin eking out a victory with 44,542 to 43,829 votes.
Ald. Larry Palm thought that Cieslewicz couldn't overcome some negative perceptions: "He's done a lot of things right but he has not been able to shift the perception."
Scott McDonell, chair of the Dane County Board, thought Soglin had the right persona for the moment. "I think Dave has a persona that's cool and Paul has a persona that's hot. And people voted for hot. They voted for poverty issues and not renewable energy and bike trails."
But Cieslewicz might have had the best take, saying Soglin was "the only one in the city who could have beat me."
The outcome was uncertain until late in the evening. After 11 p.m., Cieslewicz showed up to his party at the Brink Lounge on East Washington to cheers of "Dave, Dave, Dave."
When he gave his concession, he joked, "C'mon people, this is not a victory party." But nevertheless, he stressed the positives: "Things did not work out for me the way I'd hoped but this was a great evening for the progressive movement," referring to JoAnne Kloppenburg's strong showing in the as yet undecided race for Supreme Court, and Joe Parisi's victory for Dane County executive.
Cieslewicz was humble. "It was an honor to serve as your mayor," he said. "We have made Madison worthy of the term 'home.'"
The mayor was undoubtedly hurt by the battle over the Edgewater Hotel, which pitting developers against neighborhood groups. But Cieslewicz said that alone probably wasn't the whole reason for his loss.
"It's really hard to say," he said. "It could have been any of a dozen things. Over the years, you take your nicks and dings."
Ald. Michael Schumacher, who decided not to run for reelection, said a lot of it came down to style and perception. "The mayor has been seen -- and this is not my perception --- as very heavy handed."
"My opinion is they're very much alike."