Sunday, April 5, 2009

Deuce ex Machina

I won't say the race for Madison's district two city council seat has gotten more dull since the field of candidates was narrowed down from five to two. While the much-anticipated defeat of Dennis deNure sapped its entertainment value somewhat, things have only heated up between the victors in February's primary, incumbent Brenda Konkel and challenger Bridget Maniaci.

My personal attention has been wrenched elsewhere. There have been a lot of work and life things popping up -- things that are afoot and could eventually mean exciting things for me and the blog alike.

But I also got so caught up in reading other media's coverage of the Rumble in the Deuce, I forgot to do some of my own. Hands down, this race caught the most attention out of any of the city council races, as you can tell not only by picking up a local paper, but by perusing Konkel and Maniaci's donor lists as well.

There have been big name endorsements. Konkel comes in packing the Progressive Dane Mod Squad, plus a big nod from Wisconsin Assemblyman Mark Pocan, while Maniaci has amassed a trifecta of mayoral magnificence with endorsements from Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and former mayors Paul Soglin and Joe Sensenbrenner. The Cieslewicz endorsement was predictable and could have even been damaging to Maniaci's campaign, had it not been for the nod from Soglin, which surprised a lot of people and leant her campaign the scrapper image Konkel had previously had a monopoly on.

There has been a glut of newspaper coverage, complete with an even split in endorsements as the Capital Times pushed Konkel and the Wisconsin State Journal backed Maniaci. The student papers both swung for Maniaci, which was not terribly surprising.

There has certainly been an explosion of yard signs, popping up like teal and purple springtime flowers as the snow disappeared. More unexpected were the pair of billboards, commissioned by the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, urging residents of the Deuce to vote for Maniaci.

For her part, Maniaci says she was just as surprised as everyone else about the billboards. When the MPPOA endorsed her, she says it involved a lengthy phone call during which the question was posed, "How do you feel about billboards?"

"I kind of stopped and said, 'Okay I guess,'" Maniaci told me. "I just didn't want my picture on it. But that was all I heard about it for a while."

Lo and behold, within a few weeks time the pictureless billboards sprouted up without another mention from the police union, a situation Maniaci says hasn't yet ceased to strike her as "surreal."

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to analyzing support and predicting who will come out on top. It's easy to just go ahead and use yard signs as an indicator of expected vote totals, so I will.

After all, I think the yard sign count runs pretty parallel to the race as I've observed it. In the weeks just before and after the primary election, Konkel's purple yard signs were by far the most prevalent, particularly in the more eastern portion of the deuce -- likely leftovers from one of her previous runs at the seat.

But as the Maniaci campaign has picked up steam, her aqua plaquards have exploded across the deuce. Just last week, a Maniaci sign has appeared in front of every property along the left side of Gorham Street between Brearly and Paterson Streets. All the buildings are larger apartment complexes, and I'm willing to stake money on my hypothesis that Maniaci has picked up the support of an enthusiastic landlord and not staged a coup in the 900 block of Gorham, but anything's possible.

Most streets, however, are much more evenly divided. A walk down Sherman Avenue or Blair Street will demonstrate how this race has pitted neighbor against neighbor, with clusters and rows of purple pitted against the encroaching aquamarine, or whatever that damn color is.

It is aquamarine, right? I was one of those kids with the 12-crayon box.

If I had to call the race based solely on yard sign support, I'd say it's a dead heat right now, which does not bode well for the incumbent. After the primary, a lot was riding on which way Adam Walsh and Sherman Hackbarth's supporters broke, and it seems like they've scattered willy-nilly.

Both campaigns have fielded massive teams of volunteers. Both have flooded front porches and mailboxes with literature, to the point where I'm seriously questioning the environmental cred of each.

Konkel has stood her ground and defined herself, wisely, as a fighter and city hall troublemaker. Maniaci has rooted herself strongly in the discontent of a few, then used that to expand into what's become a solid base of support.

It's going to be a fight to the finish -- as a wise albeit dead man once said, "That's a good place to end." Now I just need to figure out who the heck to vote for.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Nice photo image. I hope you made a decision by now. And I hope it doesn't suck too much.