The withdrawal of Jeff Wiswell from the city council race (on the heels of Dennis Kugle’s withdrawal) all but makes the upcoming election meaningless.
Mary O’Connor, Kathy Thomas and Brian Holmquist are now running for three seats – making them all shoo ins for a 2-year term.
I was surprised that Wiswell decided to file for re-election last December. I thought his defeat in the mayoral race would seal his time in Monona politics. It turns out it was only a two-month delay. Wiswell’s decision to pull out of the race is awkward, but I’m still not surprised.
I was more surprised by Dennis Kugle’s withdrawal from the race. It’s known that some people had targeted Kugle since he had donated money to Scott Walker. Perhaps Kugle felt that we were headed toward another ‘blue wave’ – like last April – when left-of-center voters came out in massive numbers to express their displeasure with Governor Walker via the supreme court race. Monona was blanketed with JoAnne Kloppenburg signs – and it was no surprise that many of those same yards sported Bob Miller, Chad Speight and Doug Wood signs. All three of those men rode a strong turnout to wins in the mayoral and city council races, respectively.
Both Kugle and Wiswell, who are the two of the three more conservative council members (the other being Jim Busse), may have both felt the anti-Walker wrath from Monona voters had they stayed in the race. However, there is no polarizing race this April – as there was in 2011 – so I don’t feel any such sentiment would be overwhelming.
The most difficult thing about Wiswell’s and Kugle’s bailing from the race is that it doesn’t create any sort of debate or conversation. And more importantly, it kept others from running. If Kugle and Wiswell had not filed to run in the first place, other candidates may have stepped forward, as opposed to the remaining three. Sadly, we don’t know.
No matter the reasons for Wiswell’s and Kugle’s departures, the moves will leave us with very new city council come April.
First, we’ll have two women (I don’t know when was the last time that happened). Second, two of the three will be newcomers to the council (the third is former alderwoman Kathy Thomas).
Finally, the council will be a solidly left leaning group going forward. Last year it was Chad Speight replacing Mike Veserat. Now we have two of the remaining three ‘conservative’ alders being replaced by more moderate/liberal individuals.
What does a more liberal city council mean? Probably not that much. There is not a lot of leeway in the city budget. There is the possibility the city could borrow money if they want to begin some larger projects. This was probably less likely under the previous administrations. But some projects that have been stalled may emerge – such as bringing Madison Metro into Monona.
With Wiswell and Kugle gone, the city administration should be more unified and be able to push through projects more aggressively. The only danger for them is that they will have no one to blame but themselves if they fail.
The final question – should Super Friendly Horse run for city council?