With 20 members, the Madison Common Council is a complicated body that every two years usually sees a quarter to a third of its members replaced. This year, there are six open seats and seven incumbents facing challenges.
Most of the council's veterans are safe. Tim Bruer, Mike Verveer, Lauren Cnare, Mark Clear, Satya Rhodes-Conway and Larry Palm are all running unopposed. Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff also gets a pass on her first reelection effort.
But change is still inevitable. A few prominent alders are not seeking reelection, including Judy Compton, the council's second-longest-serving member; Julia Kerr, a passionate west-sider known to occasionally scold her colleagues; Jed Sanborn, the ranking fiscal conservative; Thuy Pham-Remmele, the polarizing conservative; and Michael Schumacher, a policy wonk once thought to be eyeing a run for mayor. Their departures will change the council's dynamics.
Politically, the council will likely move to the left, with conservative seats being fought over by more liberal candidates.
Here's a rundown of some of the more interesting races:
Dist. 1: Driscoll vs. Subeck
Whoever wins, this district on Madison's far southwest side will be represented by a much more liberal alder than Jed Sanborn. Lisa Subeck is executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin; Brian Driscoll is a former teacher and liaison for the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Jim Doyle.
Subeck emerged from the Feb. 15 primary as the clear favorite, with 820 votes to Driscoll's 355; she's also gotten the endorsements of both The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal.
Dist. 2: Maniaci vs. Stevenson
Two years ago, Bridget Maniaci upset downtown Ald. Brenda Konkel - a liberal champion for many, an annoyance to some. A political novice, Maniaci was backed by a political establishment frustrated with Konkel. She's since championed the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment project, which many residents in her district opposed, and alienated some neighborhood groups, a base of Konkel's support.
Maniaci's challenger is Samuel Stevenson, a UW-Madison graduate student and political activist. Maniaci is campaigning on the need to develop the economy, housing and employment. Stevenson says his priority is "the struggle to address the plight of the homeless and those living in poverty."
One interesting tidbit: All three alders in districts bordering Maniaci's - Satya Rhodes-Conway, Marshall Rummel and Mike Verveer - have endorsed her opponent. Maniaci is the incumbent most in danger of losing her seat.
Dist. 6: Jan-McMahon vs. Rummel
This near-east-side district, including Willy Street and Atwood Avenue, is the city's most distinctive liberal enclave, known for its eclectic residents, restaurants, festivals and the occasional drum circle.
So it's no surprise that a liberal, Twink Jan-McMahon, would challenge one of the council's liberal stalwarts, Marsha Rummel. But Jan-McMahon, who founded Sustainable Atwood, seems to invite controversy - one of her goals is to turn Eastwood Drive into a park - and may have erred in going negative against the well-liked, hard-working Rummel.
In a column in the Cap Times, Jan-McMahon tried to paint Rummel as erratic and waffling, with unknown agendas, and accused her of "favoring small groups and developers, bypassing community processes." This about an alder who called a citywide meeting last year of neighborhood groups to get their input on the development process, and led community meetings on the now-dead high-speed rail project.
Council insiders expect Rummel to survive easily.
Dist. 8: Resnick vs. Szarzynski
Because this central district is composed mostly of UW-Madison students, the seat is often held by a student (or a recent student) and tends to have a high turnover rate.
The current councilman, Bryon Eagon, and his predecessor, Eli Judge, both stepped down after one term. But the district affords unique opportunities to have an impact: Less constrained by constituent concerns like property taxes, the alder here can push bold ideas. One example is Austin King, who became council president and successfully fought to raise Madison's minimum wage.
This race pits Scott Resnick, a recent UW grad and president of the State-Langdon Neighborhood Association, against Kyle Szarzynski, a current UW student, activist and former columnist for The Badger Herald. Resnick is backed by the College Democrats and Szarzynski by Progressive Dane. The primary was close, with Resnick getting 205 votes to Szarzynski's 174. High student turnout is expected, and this race is up for grabs.
Dist. 10: Farley vs. Solomon
Tom Farley has a public persona that recalls his late brother, comedian Chris Farley. But while Chris fine-tuned his eccentricities for laughs, Tom seems to lack the filter that successful politicians hone.
In January 2010, after a marathon Common Council meeting, Farley groused on the Wisconsin State Journal's website: "Open meetings pander to people's fears and mistrust of civic leaders; they hinder enlightened and creative solutions."
Farley is challenging two-term incumbent Brian Solomon, an unabashed liberal who advocates for the poor, minorities and other marginalized groups and frequently tries to be a voice of conciliation, proposing compromises on divisive issues. Solomon's been tainted this year by an allegation of sexual assault that's prompted a Department of Justice investigation; he denies any wrongdoing.
Still, if the primary is any indication - Solomon 1,367 to Farley 536 - the incumbent should prevail.
Dist. 13: Ellingson vs. Mertz
This near-west district is represented by the passionate Julia Kerr, who opted not to run again. The race to succeed her is between two liberals.
Sue Ellingson has been active with environmental causes and helped manage Kerr's campaigns. She has the support of traditional Democrats. TJ Mertz, meanwhile, is backed by Progressive Dane. But Mertz would seem better suited as a Madison school board candidate; he publishes the blog Advocating on Madison Public Schools and is well versed on education issues. Ellingson bested him in the primary, with 997 to 426 votes.
Dist. 18: Her vs. Weier
No matter who wins, this north-side district will take a left turn in replacing Ald. Michael Schumacher, who was consistently among the council's more conservative members.
Peng Her runs the East Isthmus Neighborhoods Planning Council. Anita Weier, a former journalist, has been active with the Northside Planning Council and Friends of Cherokee Marsh.
While many find Her an articulate speaker with good ideas, Weier seems to have run a stronger race, getting an early start, lining up endorsements and raising money. The primary results showed her firmly ahead, 1,114 votes to Her's 512.
Dist. 20: Glomp vs. Phair
This south-side district, known for its crime problems, is among the city's most diverse areas. That diversity extends to politics.
The incumbent, Thuy Pham-Remmele, became a champion to conservatives and drew flak from council colleagues for being unprepared and disrupting meetings with long, meandering rants.
More than in any other race, these candidates come from different sides. A conservative, Dave Glomp, continues some of the themes Pham-Remmele pushed, including a tough-on-crime stance. Matt Phair, whose wife works as a secretary to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, hopes the district is looking for a change.
In other races: Nathan Judnic challenges one-term incumbent Steve King in Dist. 7; Rick Cruz challenges five-term incumbent Paul Skidmore in Dist. 9; Brandon White challenges one-term incumbent Chris Schmidt in Dist. 11; and Jill Johnson runs unopposed for Judy Compton's Dist. 16 seat (Ryan McKee has dropped out of the race, but his name is still on the ballot).