When Tim Bruer was first elected to the Madison Common Council in 1984, one of the council leaders told him he "had a district nobody else wanted." Alders came and went, in rapid succession, Bruer remembers.
He took the comment as a challenge. Almost 30 years later, Bruer is still serving the south-side district, which he brags has seen unprecedented development and revitalization. "Now I have a district that everyone else should envy."
Bruer has become an institution on the council. And in every election, his constituents are happy to let him keep doing the job: It's been years since he's had a serious challenger.
That might change in April, when Bruer and the rest of the council face reelection. The filing deadline isn't until Jan. 2, but a number of races are emerging.
John Strasser intends to run against Bruer. The 50-year-old Strasser has a background in sales, but is now working on a degree in political science at the UW.
Bruer is a polarizing figure on the council, with his share of both friends and enemies. Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz praised his leadership. Current Mayor Paul Soglin is much less cozy with Bruer, unceremoniously dumping him from the powerful Board of Estimates after taking office in 2011.
Strasser looks to use Bruer's longevity and divisiveness against him, saying, "If you haven't accomplished what you want in that amount of time, it's time to go."
Bruer counters that his dedication to the district is above reproach. "Obviously there will come a time when I feel I've accomplished most of my district's agenda," he says. "That isn't today."
Other council members appear likely to have at least one challenger. Although not all the alders have filed the paperwork stating their intentions (they have until Dec. 21), at least five incumbents are not running for reelection.
But some challengers have filed. Scott Thornton will run for Marsha Rummel's 6th District seat, which runs from downtown through the southeast side of the isthmus. Christian Hansen has filed to run in the 8th District, the neighborhood that includes much of UW-Madison, currently represented by Scott Resnick.>
David Ahrens, a retired researcher at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, is running for the seat currently held by Larry Palm, who was moved through redistricting into the district now held by Satya Rhodes-Conway. Rhodes-Conway is not running for reelection, and Palm is contemplating running for her seat.
The City Clerk maintains a list of current candidates, which is updated as they turn in forms. Candidates must file nominating papers, with at least 20 signatures, by the Jan. 2 deadline. The primary is Feb. 19 and the general election April 2.
The busiest race so far is the 2nd District, which covers the north side of the isthmus, from downtown through Tenney-Lapham. Ald. Bridget Maniaci is not running for reelection. Four candidates -- Colin Bowden, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, Bryan Post and Ledell Zellers -- have declared they'll run for her seat.