Following weeks of indecision, Austin King announced on Friday morning that he would not be seeking reelection. Currently president of the Madison Common Council, King is serving his second term as 8th District alderman, a district that covers much of the UW-Madison and adjacent student-dominated neighborhoods. King built his political base through activism during his time at the university before getting elected to the council in 2003.
'I will be forever humbled and grateful for the opportunity to have served the campus and the community for four wonderful years. This time in my life has been endlessly rewarding, and for that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my constituents, my colleagues, and the wonderful employees of the City of Madison," King says in his press release (available in the related downloads at right). "I am ready to move on to new challenges and opportunities, but I will take with me the lessons I've learned and the remarkable experiences I've had for the rest of my life."
Though he does not mention support for a possible successor in the Friday morning press release, King was gathering signatures on Thursday evening for Lauren Woods, who will formally announced her candidacy early Friday afternoon. King is also serving as her campaign treasurer.
Woods is a UW-Madison senior who has served as president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union, and was recently appointed by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz to the city's Equal Opportunities Commission and the Regent Street/South Campus Master Plan Steering Committee.
When asked midday Friday if she would be running, Woods responded, "Yes, I am." Noting that she would be issuing a press release later in the day, she says this about her candidacy: "I've been thinking about it for quite some time, and made the decision today. I just wanted to make sure the timing was right and I was ready for the challenge."
Woods identifies affordable housing, tenants rights, safety and security, expanded civil rights, and "making sure that all of Madison's citizens can participate in the city's quality of life" as her primary issues. "I am excited to keep alive the progressive tradition of pushing the envelope on issues that really matter in peoples' day-to-day lives," she states (in her press release available at top right). "I will wage a vigorous and grassroots campaign to take my message to the voters this spring, and I look forward to earning their support." Woods was officially qualified for the ballot as of Friday morning.
Second District alderperson and fellow progressive Brenda Konkel says Woods has big shoes to fill. "I think the students are well represented by Austin because he was involved in local government issues before he was elected," she says, contending that this is a difficult role for that district's alder, given the focus of so many UW students on campus issues that may differ from those of the broader community.
"My biggest concern is that Austin has a wealth of experience," she continues, "and people that have held that position before haven't been able to hit the ground running when they get into office."
Konkel says she has some familiarity with Woods. "I've seen her at a couple budget meetings, so she's been paying attention," she notes.
Woods herself recognizes the difficulties of representing a mostly student district and bridging the town-gown divide. "I think Austin has definitely set a precedent with student involvement," she says, "and I would like to meet that challenge."
Both announcements come as little surprise, given ongoing speculation about King's plans for attending law school. Though today, Dec. 22, is the deadline for incumbent members of the council to make final declarations if they are not running in the spring 2007 elections, King was unsure about his future as late as last week.
"I have not made a decision yet," he said on Wednesday, Dec. 13. "I have been doing everything I need to do in order to run a successful reelection campaign." King also said that he was unworried about gathering signatures (20 are needed) if he were make a late decision to run.
That turned out not to be the case, though he would not say last week if he had recruited another candidate to succeed him, much less to assist in the role of a campaign treasurer. "It's a silly question," King said. Pressed further, the outgoing alder merely said, "You always want to think ahead, but I would be confident that the Eighth District will be well represented, whether by me or by somebody else." It turns out he's hoping for the latter.