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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 44.0° F  Overcast
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How much trouble is Brenda Konkel in?
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What did we learn last Tuesday and what should we be looking for during the next seven weeks?

First off, if you took what I said earlier last week about the Primary Election to the bank, you didn't get good returns on 100%. Like many others, I thought that the built-in progressive constituency in District 8 would connect enough arrows for Katrina Flores, a fine person whose campaign was either too disorganized or lazy to do the bare minimum to prevail (she blew off the League of Women Voters and The Badger Herald -- not good for a prospective student district alder). I did get everything else right -- although that wasn't a difficult feat.

As I said then, I thought cracking 50% in the primary would be a spectacular victory for Brenda Konkel in her quest for a fifth term on the Madison Common Council representing District 2 -- considering she had been facing stiff opposition for weeks from three opponents and the mayor's office and local media establishment for much longer.

So last week, the boss asked a question on the Forum side: "How much trouble is Konkel in?" It's an interesting question and has been discussed here, here, and here. Now that you've heard the rest, you can read... my answer. Short answer: She's not necessarily in trouble. Here's the long answer.


Bridget Manici could win if the following happens:

  • If she can convince the voters in the district that she reflects their values. That tends to be the first challenge for any candidate. District 2 is one of the two or three most progressive in the city. Adam Walsh tried valiantly to convince enough voters that he was a good enough small-p progressive, as opposed to the big-p (or brand name, i.e. Progressive Dane) progressive -- someone who was progressive enough and experienced enough, but would be more effective than Brenda. That is going to have to be Bridget's main job -- to convince the voters that she holds strong progressive values and she won't waiver from being a true representative of her district.

  • If she can prove to the voters that she has ideas for the district that would not only be different from Brenda's, but be better than Brenda's and would have a better chance of being implemented than Brenda's.

  • If she can pick up some endorsements that matter. Let's face it, almost nobody living East of Wisconsin Ave. cares who the Daily Cardinal or Badger Herald endorse and while David Wallner and Richard Linster both represented the district, Bridget could use some endorsements of community leaders from this century.

Here's some free advice for Bridget:

  • If you see Mayor Dave coming towards you offering an endorsement and support… think long and hard about accepting it. You've already spent a lot of energy trying to convince people you're not the Mayor's lackey. And he isn't as popular in the isthmus as he was in 2003. This endorsement could cut both ways.

  • If you see Phil Salkin coming towards you offering an endorsement and support… you will be judged by your would-be constituents as to whether or not you run away from him and how much you scream while doing it.


Brenda Konkel could win if the following happens:

  • If Brenda's 41% showing awoke a sleeping giant. Keep in mind there are now no other opportunities in town for local progressives (of both the big- and small-p varieties) who love working on city council campaigns to get involved. Brenda's campaign needs to take advantage of this and it needs to get much more aggressive. The four-on-one primary directed a lot of attention at her and she did well to not attack her opponents back. Now she has one target and her campaign needs to focus on defeating it.

  • If she focuses on reminding her constituents of what she has accomplished. Any alder would be very proud of a list like that. It needs to be out there more.

  • She splits the Walsh and Hackbarth voters. That itself would seal victory.

  • If she can successfully articulate the policy differences between her and her opponent. You know, make this a campaign about the issues? There is already one that needs further discussion: When she interviewed at the Democratic Party of Dane County's Campaign Committee (and I know because I was there), Bridget stated support for the addition of 30 extra police officers in last year's budget. In light of the fact that the monthly rate of much-publicized West side burglaries dropped by half before a single new cop was put on the street and the fact that the overall crime rate is falling in Madison and violent crime is down from two years' previous, district residents would probably like to know if that massive budget increase was still a good idea. Brenda voted against it, Bridget supports it.


Bonus Recommended Reading

Be sure to check out Bill Lueders' excellent story on the current woes of the Majestic Theatre and its owners. This might wind up having to be resolved at the Zoning Board of Appeals or the Plan Commission -- so I'm not going to say too much other than observe that this is a funny way to nurture the Creative Class in Madison.

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