The votes have been counted, the bar tabs are all paid and the hangovers have been nursed. Now that Spring Election 2009 is in the history books, lets revisit the big winners and losers from Tuesday night.
In the towns of Blooming Grove, Madison, Montrose, Perry and Vermont...In the villages of Belleville, Black Earth, Brooklyn, Cambridge, Maple Bluff, Rockdale and Shorewood Hills...and in the cities of Fitchburg, Madison, Middleton, Monona, Stoughton and Verona...and in all points in-between, Dane County voters turned out and rejected by a substantial margin one of the most divisive, cynical and exploitative campaigns in history and returned to office a woman who has had a strong hand in making Dane County the place a vast majority of us enjoy living in.
The Mistele was way off-target and, most fortunately, doesn't get to do the damage it promised.
It isn't a mystery where I stood in this race and I am disappointed one of the best people in Madison city government was turned out of office.
Still, you have to doff your cap to Alder-elect Maniaci. She took advantage of a general dissatisfaction among some District 2 residents and managed to pump out the turnout in Wards 39 and 40 to win the day.
I still scratch my head over certain things that Maniaci did during the election and don't think, especially given who was already representing the district, she has what it takes to be an effective alder. However, the voters disagree with me and have given Bridget Maniaci the chance to prove me wrong.
And here's to hoping she does exactly that.
Brenda Konkel's Enemies
When you've been in office as long as Brenda Konkel has and when you fight for your issues as hard as she fought, there's going to be a few enemies made. And Brenda's enemies were legion. Until Tuesday, I didn't think that many of them were residing within her district.
Now here's a message for all the people on the second and fourth floors of the City/County Building who are high-fiving each other today: Just because you made Brenda Konkel go away in an official capacity doesn't mean that those issues go away. We still have different Madisons for different people. The fight to increase opportunity for all residents still needs to be joined.
For all those progressives and liberals who, of course, agreed with Brenda's issues but tut-tutted at her personality and tactics, you got what you wanted. The ball is now firmly in your court and we're going to see what you can do with it.
When you go all-in, you'd better win your hand. Dave did and did. Many people, myself included, were prepared to talk about whether a Konkel win in District 2, where he endorsed Maniaci, meant the end for the Mayor. While the results show some seriously weakened support on the near-east side (which has been so important to him in previous elections), still coming out on top means the most.
Small request for Mayor Dave: Now that the major source of your ass-pain is gone, can we now get down to business? What I said above applies to you as well. Oh, and next time, don't forget the "0" at the end of the number for the district you really should concentrate on changing.
Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney has proven again, much to the rage of the county's neo-con minority, that he has political capital that continues to grow and grow - and he's not shy in using it. Being the local face for the Supreme Court and County Executive races were big boosts to the winning candidates.
Dane County Board progressives
Some talk prior to Election Night revolved around what the County Executive race might mean for next year's County Board elections. There was some fear that Kathleen Falk wouldn't do well in swing districts and that would be bad news for county progressives.
It turns out that the minority neo-con caucus has a lot to be concerned about in the wake of the election. Among districts represented by neo-cons, Falk won District 33 (Fitchburg - Martz) and 15 (West Madison - Ferrell), and only got edged out in District 36 (Stoughton - Solberg). Among districts represented by progressives, Falk won 18 (Northside Madison - Wheeler), 12 (Northside Madison - Rusk), 9 (West Madison/Middleton - Hesselbein) and 7 (Southwest Madison - Veldran).
The only district progressives could be worried about is 30 (Mount Horeb - Downing) - where Falk lost even though she won the towns of Perry, Montrose and Vermont. However, Pat Downing's past two elections have been decisive victories and his connection with the district and his hard work in and out of the district should still give pause to anybody who thinks this seat can be taken by the conservatives.
The Sign-Making Industry
Say it with me, folks: Signs do not win elections. One more time: Signs do not win elections. Nancy Mistele's Potemkin Village of signage received a bit of coverage and raised a lot of false concern. Commercial properties and run-down taverns do not get to vote in elections. That's not going to stop future candidates from trying the same tactics and the same Chicken Littles from getting all a-twitter over the tactics. But sign makers, and nobody else, will reap the rewards of such short-sightedness. Good for them as I'm glad to see somebody doing well as we try to recover from the Bush Economy.
At long last, may Brittany Zimmerman finally rest in peace.
There's really not much more to say. Nancy Mistele ran ads mocking Kathleen Falk for running for higher office twice and losing. Mistele has run for higher office three times and lost all three. I, and the majority of Dane County voters, hope she takes the hint.
Ten years' ago, PD had eight seats on the Common Council. Since that high water mark, they've been losing seats and now have only three. It's no secret that they've been shrinking in membership, political force and clout over the years. The more mainstream members have found a home in the Democratic Party of Dane County. The more radical members are working with the Greens. With the loss of PD leader Brenda Konkel (who enjoyed a lot of support from people despite her PD affiliation rather than because of it) at the polls, it doesn't seem they'll be around much longer.
I'm not writing this to say this means a sea-change in local politics. Progressive third-parties have always been a part of Madison's political scene and have always had historic arcs - from the Progressive party to Labor-Farm to PD. PD's arc is now waning and should fade for another organization to form a progressive local political coalition.
The boys and girls in blue acquired their target in District 2, kicked in the door and went in guns blazing. Dumping more money in one district than almost every common council member spent in their last contested races and using media not used in a long time, if ever (and yes, "Walter," I still think the billboards were a waste of money), the police officers union helped tip the scales in Bridget Maniaci's favor.
Along with the unprecedented amount of money spent, I have a serious bone to pick with the GOTV material the police used. In their comparison piece, they slammed Brenda Konkel for not voting in favor of the 30 new officers in 2007 (while we still don't know why 30 were necessary instead of 18, or 80 for that matter) while voting in favor of $50,000 (chump change in relation to the police budget) for homeless outreach. Because, you know, paying for people to find homeless persons on the street and put them in housing has absolutely no effect on crime. Please.
Emboldened by Tuesdays result, we can expect the MPPOA to continue to go Dirty Harry in future elections. Will the voters of Madison accept that, or will they order this PAC to turn in its gun and shield? Time will tell.
JP Heyn, Greg Hull, Dave Glomp, Steve Ingham, Ted Krez, Sal Al-Ashkar, John Brixy, Nancy Mistele. What do all these people have in common? They are candidates that adopted the rhetoric and distortions of the barely-organized anti-rail lobby, ran in strident opposition to a proposed Regional Transportation Authority, and lost their elections.
Never mind that the RTA isn't exclusively about trains, facts don't matter to this crowd. Fortunately, facts do matter to a majority of Dane County voters and they understand the need for an RTA and a commuter rail component as a part of it. What is quite telling is that up and down the proposed commuter rail line (with the exception of Sun Prairie - which wasn't a huge margin), all the precincts strongly went to Falk. The voters must not have got the memo that they're about to have their neighborhoods are about to be clogged with traffic backups and train exhaust that, if you believe Nancy Mistele's junk science, will ruin their environment.
Or maybe they did get the memo, dismissed it as the hooey it is and cast their vote for a future with an RTA.
Ballot shortages during a Spring Election? I know budgets are tight, but does the cardstock budget for the city clerk's office have to be the victim? It's a damn good thing none of the races in the wards in question were that close. Make sure that doesn't happen again.
Just when this guy finally gets a pundit gig, he's presented with one of the dullest and most frustrating Spring Election cycles ever. And he responded by covering some things to the point where he didn't even want to see them covered anymore. However, there are three bits of good news for this loser: 1) He gets to write more about local governmental policy for a while; 2) Baseball Season has started and 3) The County Board election cycle starts in about seven short months!