Maniaci: "The messaging for this campaign I was proud of because I was doing it myself." Konkel: "People will be afraid of crossing [the mayor]."
The results came in much later than expected. The word was that voting machines in one of the wards became unplugged and the ballots had to be counted by hand. But most of Brenda Konkel's supporters at her post-election party at the Avenue Bar on East Washington Avenue seemed confident she'd pull out a victory for the Madison Common Council's Dist. 2.
At 9:30 p.m., Konkel hushed the crowd and began thanking all her supporters for their hard work -- it sounded like the start of a victory speech.
"But, I do have bad news," she announced. "Sixty-two votes. I lost by 62 votes. Everybody keeps asking me 'What does that mean?' It means I'll have a new role to play in the community."
The final unofficial tally was 962 to 900 votes. Konkel, the council's most outspoken member, lost to Bridget Maniaci, who was endorsed by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, two former mayors and the police union. To Konkel's supporters, she was defeated not by an upstart talent, but by the establishment.
"Being on the council is a hell of a job," Konkel's predecessor and current Dane County Supv. Barbara Vedder told the crowd after Konkel conceded. "When you rock the boat, the establishment does not like it one bit."
The mood after Konkel conceded was bleak. "Without Brenda the council is practically a real-estate advisory board," former Madison Ald. Andy Heidt told the crowd.
There were pledges from some in the crowd to unseat Mayor Cieslewicz for his interference in council politics. "It's time for a new mayor," said Dane County Supv. Al Matano. "We're going to go after Mayor Dave and take him down."
A few blocks away at Supreme Pizza, Maniaci denied she was anybody's candidate but her own. She said she campaigned on issues important to the district, wrote her own literature and knocked on a lot of doors.
"I've been thinking about this for two years," she said of her run. "The messaging for this campaign I was proud of because I was doing it myself. It isn't about a couple of people supporting me -- it's about hundreds of signs in yards."
Fighting tears and a cold, Konkel was clearly upset by the loss, but pledged to stay involved and keep fighting. "My eight years on council," she said, "are going to make me an even more effective community organizer."
Still, Konkel worried what effect her defeat will have on the council. "People will be afraid of crossing [the mayor]," she predicted. "And the police as well. They spent nearly as much as my opponent."'
Konkel sees two possibilities for the council: "Either they are going to totally cave in or they'll find their own voice." We'll see.