Paul Soglin hugs supporters after speaking to the media at The Brink Lounge Tuesday, April 7, 2015.
For the past four years, Ald. Paul Skidmore has sat next to Scott Resnick at Common Council meetings and always liked him.
But Skidmore was incredulous when he learned last year that Resnick was going to challenge his old friend, Paul Soglin, for mayor. “I said, ‘You’re going to get your ass kicked.’ He said, ‘Maybe, but that’s how Paul started.’”
Skidmore’s prediction turned out to be accurate on Tuesday. Soglin won his eighth term in office with an overwhelming 71.9% of the vote. Results are still unofficial.
The campaign was generally lackluster, which was reflected by the turnout: less than 30% of the registered voters showed up to vote. In 2011, when Soglin defeated Dave Cieslewicz, turnout was 54%.
Not even Resnick seemed surprised by the results. “We had an uphill battle,” he tells Isthmus. “We knew that the day after the primary. Obviously, we’re not happy with the outcome.”
Resnick conceded shortly after 9 p.m., about an hour after the polls closed.
But Resnick says he will keep working for Madison and taking on new challenges. “I’m 28 years old. Most people don’t get to have an experience like this at 28,” he added. “Tomorrow morning I’ll be back at work at Hardin Development. We have plenty of other civic projects that we’ll be working on.”
Soglin was business-like in his celebration — he left his party at the Brink Lounge before 10 p.m., missing many people who came later to congratulate him. In his speech, he expressed exhaustion with the process. “This campaign started last June. I hope it’s over.”
Asked if he wanted to make any changes in his next term, he said, “I don’t know. It’s working pretty well.”
He added that he wanted to work on reducing unemployment and homelessness and work cooperatively with schools. And he promised that by the end of his next term, residents would see a city that has been transformed from when he first returned to office in 2011.
“The city of Madison is going through a journey,” he told supporters. “When we look back from 2019 to 2011, we’re going to witness one of the most significant transformations demonstrating that a city can address the issues of poverty, disparity and really show that we can make a community with opportunity and success for everyone.”
All 20 seats of the Common Council were also up for election. Thirteen incumbents won reelection, including 12 who ran unopposed.
Two incumbents were unseated. Fourth-term Ald. Joe Clausius was edged out by Samba Baldeh, an immigrant from Gambia, for his east-side seat. And John Strasser — the first-term alder who upset 29-year council veteran Tim Bruer in 2013 — failed to win a second term. Strasser lost his south-side seat to Sheri Carter.
Carter and Barbara McKinney became the first two African American women ever elected to the Common Council. McKinney won an open seat over Matt Brink.
McKinney said Wednesday that she was honored to be among the first black women on the council. She says that she won, in part, because she was able to get people to see beyond her gender and race.
“People stopped seeing me as just a black female, but someone who is fair and will get the job done,” says McKinney, adding that she knocked on many doors throughout the district. “I became a human to them, not just a name in a newspaper or on a flier. I was someone who was at their door. And they trusted me enough to know I would be fair.”
But, she added, “I’ve got two years to prove myself.”
Sara Eskrich won another open seat, in the near west side neighborhoods of Vilas, Greenbush and University Heights, over Zach Madden. And on the north side, Rebecca Kemble defeated Peng Her for an open seat.
Ald. Denise DeMarb survived a last-minute campaign by the Madison Area Builders Association to unseat her. She defeated Tiffany Tobias with 70% of the vote.