I know Zach Brandon. Zach Brandon is a friend of mine. Zach Brandon is no Jennifer Alexander.
This is a significant choice. It makes a statement.
Zach and Jennifer couldn't be more different. I know them both well, and I respect them as professionals and like them as people.
Jennifer has done much good for the business climate in her years leading the Chamber. She has just the right touch for Madison. A moderate Republican, she understood how to navigate in a city that isn't so much that. While she improved the Chamber's profile and internal functioning, most of what she did was behind the scenes. She was not much about headline grabbing.
Zach is a moderate Democrat. An early supporter of Barack Obama, he tried to peel me away from John Edwards in the 2008 Democratic primaries. I stuck with Edwards, and you can judge for yourself how well that one turned out. So, right off the bat you have to respect the guy's political instincts.
But this is Madison, where politics makes for strange everything. Jennifer Alexander, a moderate Republican, is likely to have been greeted with less suspicion among liberals than will Zach Brandon.
The reason is that in his time on the Common Council, Zach tried to carve out a New Democrat, Clintonesque kind of niche. He fashioned himself as a budget hawk and tried to organize a fiscally conservative coalition. I respected his ability to shape an argument and to try to leverage his position. We butted heads more than once, but Zach is the best kind of pol -- somebody who can hit you hard on the council floor and than sit and have a beer with you an hour later.
I would expect Zach to be a lot more outspoken and controversial than Jennifer ever was. The Chamber board must have made that as a conscious choice. We'll see how it all plays out, but before that we should take a moment to thank Jennifer Alexander. She understood Madison, and she did a great deal to heal the sometimes tense relationship between the business community and its city.