Politics is central to the civic identities and reputations of Madison and greater Dane County, particularly when it comes to its progressive variety. There's no better example than the last two months, over which hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against a union-busting bill pushed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the legislature. The uproar has swallowed the spring election season whole, polarizing voters and ensuring higher-than-expected turnout.
Election Day is nigh, and while campaigns are preparing their final GOTV pushes, they're also making plans for post-ballot gatherings that promise either celebration or commiseration. Here are the party plans for three high-profile races this election season.
The most closely contested race in town is the mayoral rematch pitting Mayor Dave vs. Hizzoner, repeating the bout that dominated local politics eight years ago. That little matter concerning the governor has burning up most of the political oxygen the last couple of months, though, and the tone of the mayoral campaign has been far less intense that it may have otherwise been, as a result. The candidates have appeared together in solidarity with the Capitol protesters, demonstrating their general shared values and vision for the city, but the relative positions each occupies along the ideological spectrum, however minor the difference, has flipped from the last time around, at least judging by endorsement lists.
Incumbent Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz will be at the Brink Lounge on East Washington, while challenger and former Madison mayor Paul Soglin will be at the Nitty Gritty on North Frances. Both parties start after the polls close at 8 p.m.
The differences between the candidates for Dane County Executive is far clearer, particularly in the charged political climate this spring. One, a sitting county board member, self-identifies as a conservative, but has tried to avoid identification as a Republican partisan. The other, a sitting Democratic member of the Wisconsin Assembly, was an active participant in the minority caucus's efforts to publicize the contents of Walker's union-busting bill. Given the totals in the primary and the general partisan breakdown of Dane County, speculation about the outcome of this race is trending towards how big the vote spread will end up being.
Eileen Bruskewitz will be at the Coliseum Bar on East Olin, where the gathering is scheduled to get started early at 7:30 p.m. Joe Parisi will be at Talula on Atlas, with this party set to begin at 8 p.m.
Both of these local races, though, have been eclipsed by the battle over the swing seat in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. Continuing a trend in state-level non-partisan judicial elections over the last few years, this contest has escalated into an all-out proxy brawl between Republican and Democratic partisans, complete with acrimonious candidate debates and negative campaign ads released by political action committees and other interest groups. Walker looms large here, as does Republican domination of state government, with supporters on each side identifying the outcome of the race as crucial to the future direction of Wisconsin.
Challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg will be at the Edgewater Hotel on Wisconsin, and incumbent justice David Prosser will be at Seven Seas Restaurant in Hartland. Both of these events likewise start at 8 p.m., after the polls close.
Local political activists have been exceedingly busy the last two months. These parties offer them a chance to relax, at least for a few hours, and perhaps even celebrate should the night turn their way.
Make sure to check in and join our Election Day live-blog next Tuesday, April 5, either before or after voting, or both.