Madison Area DSA’s Spring Election Voter Guide

Quick Links:

Madison Common Council DSA Endorsements
Stoughton City Council
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Pre-Election To-Dos

Absentee Voting

Dane County and the rest of the state may be “open for business,” but COVID and its new variants are still rampant out there. MADSA strongly encourages social distancing by voting early with an absentee ballot.

Key Dates

These dates represent deadlines. The earlier you register and get an absentee ballot, the better. City clerks offices mail out absentee ballots on a first-come, first-serve basis. The sooner you request your ballot, the sooner you’ll receive it in the mail!

  • Register to vote online by March 17th. If you are not yet registered, you can start that process at My Vote WI
  • Register in-person. You can still register in-person at your municipal clerk’s office. We strongly recommend against this due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • Request an absentee ballot by Thursday April 1st. Or sooner! Request your absentee ballot today on My Vote WI. Wisconsin allows no-excuse absentee voting, which means you can request an absentee ballot for any reason whatsoever — as long as the request is made before the deadline of 5:00 p.m. on Thursday April 1st. But you should REQUEST YOUR BALLOT NOW if you haven’t already!
  • Election day is April 6. Hopefully you won’t have to brave the lines in-person, but if you must, this is the day it happens. Same-day voter registration is available in Wisconsin if the registration deadlines were missed.

For more information on registering and absentee voting, Madison residents can refer to the Madison City Clerk’s website. (Residents outside of Madison can read more from the Wisconsin Elections Commission or their local county or city clerk.)

Who is On the Ballot? Spring General Election

The April 6th election is a spring general election.

Candidate links below represent website, Facebook, and Twitter links found for each candidate. If links are missing, we were not able to find them.

Madison Common Council

District 2: Vote Benji Ramirez (they/them)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse MADSA member Benji Ramirez.

Benji is a lifelong Madison resident running on a democratic socialist platform. They have also received endorsements from Progressive Dane, Four Lakes Green Party, Our Wisconsin Revolution, and Sunrise Madison.

They are running to “extend Madison’s honorable reputation as one of the most livable cities to our BIPOC communities” and address public safety at the root causes of the problems.

From website: Racial Justice, Affordable Housing & Transit

Benji’s incumbent opponent is Patrick Heck.

District 6: Vote Brian Benford (he/him)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Brian Benford.

Brian has been an activist in the Madis on community for 30 years, and he was an alder once before. He has worked on the front lines of community-based organizations, supporting the most marginalized folks in Madison. He has also received endorsements from AFSCME, Four Lakes Green Party, and Sunrise Madison.

“So, so many things are related, as I think about reimagining public safety, defunding police or reallocated funding to address issues around poverty and community need. That’s because of the way it’s been framed now, and we live in such a divided community that there’s a strange dichotomy over that argument, where, if people had the opportunity to really think about reimagining public safety where everyone felt safe in the city of Madison, that it would be clear that we really do need to reallocate funding and really build on preventative programming, and proactive and community controlled programming to lift our city up.”

Brian Benford is running unopposed, as Marsha Rummel is not running for re-election.

District 8: Vote Ayomi Obuseh (she/her)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Ayomi Obuseh.

Ayomi is a Nigerian-American UW-Madison student who co-founded Impact Demand and is running on an activist, socialist platform. She has also received endorsements from Dane Dems, Progressive Dane, Sunrise Madison, College Democrats, Four Lakes Green Party, and folks like Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, State Senator Latoya Johnson, and current District 5 alder Shiva Bidar. She says “I feel like if you’re advocating for black liberation you have to be [a socialist].” She is running to empower others to claim their seat at the table, with many concrete ideas around social and environmental justice.

Ayomi’s opponent is Juliana Bennett.

District 9: Vote Nikki Conklin (she/her)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Nikki Conklin.

Nikki is an organizer with the Neighborhood Organizing Institute (NOI) who has lived in the Wexford Ridge area for 10 years. She has worked with the Lussier Community Education Center, as well. She says, “For me, it’s the community. … I think my community will help me and they’re gonna support me all the way to the finish line.”

Nikki Conklin has also received endorsements from Progressive Dane, Our Wisconsin Revolution, the mayor, and many other current and former alders.

We asked Nikki, do you consider yourself a democratic socialist? “I do. I do consider myself a democratic socialist, because I am trying to build a better place for the oppressed — for them, for the oppressed to thrive in — and also building inclusive spaces that do not include racism, sexism, bigotry, or other oppressive power structures.” From her website: equity & justice, high quality affordable housing, & safety for all

Nikki’s opponent in Paul Skidmore.

District 10: Vote Yannette Figueroa Cole (she/her)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Yannette Figueroa Cole.

Yannette was born in Puerto Rico and has lived in Madison for 30 years, serving people experiencing homelessness through the Beacon and Friends of the State Street Families. They have also received endorsements from Dane Dems, Progressive Dane, Working Families Party, as well as alder Keith Furman, alder Shiva Bidar, Fitchburg alder Joe Maldonado, and more. Yannette is focused on participatory budgeting and housing reform. “We have a housing crisis that I hear people now saying, ‘Oh, my God, COVID. This is going to create this issue with homelessness and prices and housing.’ That crisis has been going on for years, before COVID. I mean, again, working at the Beacon and working for Friends of State Street Families… There hasn’t been a reduction, on those issues. It just keeps on going up and up and up.”

Yannette’s opponent is Mara Eisch, as Zachary Henak did not run for re-election.

District 12: Vote Tessa Echeverria (they/them)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse MADSA member Tessa Echeverria.

Tessa is an activist community member who’s involved in running the communication art and music space and in our local DSA. They have also received endorsements from Progressive Dane, Four Lakes Green Party, Sunrise Madison, Heidi Wegleitner, Marsha Rummel, and more.

Tessa is running for a people’s budget and sustainability. “All my issues come back to sustainable, affordable development. District 12 is looking at a lot of development happening in the next few years, with the Oscar Meyer redux and the public market, and I think we need to make sure those things are working for the communities that already live here, providing good jobs for the working class, and making sure not to price out people who live in the district.” From their website: living wages, good housing for all, racial justice, and access to healthcare.

Tessa’s opponent is Syed Abbas.

District 14: Vote Brandi Grayson (she/her)

image courtesy of the campaign website

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Brandi Grayson.

Brandi is an activist and the founder and CEO of Urban Triage, Inc. She has also received endorsements from Heidi Wegleitner, Elizabeth Doyle, Alder  Max Prestigiacomo, Alder Keith Furman, Alder Shiva Bidar, Alder Rebecca Kemble, and many more. “Our campaign is rooted in my personal philosophy: for the people, by the people. It’s founded in four pillars: housing justice, public safety, youth and family empowerment, economic and transformative justice.” She says, “[I will] get in there advocating for systems and community — ground, grassroots alternatives that work. Where people are working their butt off, day in and day out. And really, advocating for us to allocate funds differently.”

Brandi’s opponent is Sheri Carter.

District 18: Vote Rebecca Kemble (she/her)

photo by Vanessa Tortolano

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Rebecca Kemble.

Rebecca has been the alderperson for District 18 since 2015, serving on many committees including Finance and the Common Council Executive Committee. She has also received endorsements from Tessa Echeverria, Brandi Grayson, Heidi Wegleitner, and many more. Rebecca has fought to strengthen our neighborhoods, boost resident participation in the political process, increase police accountability, improve transportation and housing options, and create people-centered economic development in Madison.

Rebecca’s opponent is Charles Myadze.

Madison City Council – Other Races

District 1

Barbara Harrington-McKinney, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

District 3

District 4

Michael Verveer, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

District 5

Regina Vidaver is running unopposed, as Shiva Bidar is not running for re-election.

District 7

Nasra Wehelie, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

District 11

Arvina Martin, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

District 13

Tag Evers, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

District 15

Grant Foster, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

District 16

District 17

Gary Halverson is running unopposed, as Samba Baldeh is not running.

District 19

District 20

Stoughton City Council

Vote Ben Heili for District 4

Facebook

Madison Area DSA is proud to endorse Ben Heili for Stoughton City Council.

Ben Heili began his tenure on Stoughton City Council following a special election in April 2019.  Ben has prioritized public safety throughout the pandemic and reducing the impacts of climate change. That means encouraging green energy, building green geography, and centering environmental justice. It also means building resilient and democratic structures that encourage community input and participation.  Ben currently leads the community affairs/council policy committee, which is working towards listening sessions centering racial justice.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

This is a non-partisan position. The incumbent, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, is not running again. Taylor succeeded Tony Evers in the position after he stepped down following his election as governor of Wisconsin in 2018.

TAA Madison information for this race

Recent news article that may help you decide which candidate in this race is terrible

Jill Underly

Referenda

There are four advisory questions on the spring general election ballot. These are non-binding, which means they’re basically gathering public feedback. These questions all have to do with the shape of the council itself. (They were added by resolution 21-00025, modified by resolution 21-00044 as a result of input from the Task Force on Structure of City Government and the Ad Hoc Task Force on the Structure of City Government (TFOGS) Final Report Implementation Work Group.)

Madison Area DSA has not held a chapter-wide discussion or vote on these issues due to the very recent addition of these questions to the spring election ballot. Below, we have shared the preferences of Madison Area DSA’s Electoral Working Group, as well as some commentary. You can also read Full-Sized Common Council or Full-Time Pay for Alders? We Need Both written last year by Dan Backes, a member of the Electoral Working Group.

Question 1:

Madison currently has a part-time Common Council with members who are paid approximately thirteen-thousand seven hundred dollars ($13,700) per year. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD the City of Madison transition to a full-time Common Council with each Common Council member earning between fifty percent (50%) to eighty percent (80%) of the Adjusted Median Income for Dane County for a single parent with two children (approximately $45,000 to $71,000 per year)?

☑ Yes

☐ No

Pay council members a living wage!

Question 2:

Madison currently has a part-time Common Council comprised of twenty (20) alderpersons, one from each alderperson district. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD the size of the City of Madison Common Council:

☐ be reduced? 

☐ be increased?

☑ remain the same?

Reducing the council size is a bad idea… see our previous article for more details.This question may have been strategically written with three options to split the votes between “increase” and “remain the same”, when what we really want is simply to NOT to decrease the size of the council.

So, we recommend voting “remain the same” until cogent reasons are given for changing the size of the council, besides “to save money”.

Question 3:

Madison alderpersons are currently elected to two (2) year terms. The Madison Mayor is currently elected to four (4) year terms. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD City of Madison alderpersons be elected to four (4) year terms?

☐ Yes

☐ No

The electoral working group did not have a strong opinion about this. Because of the size of the districts, the campaigns are generally not as competitive and have a small area to cover. Four years is possibly too long to have council power without a check from the voters, but this is probably not a huge deal in practice.

Question 4:

Madison alderpersons are currently not subject to term limits. Beginning the 2023 Spring Election, if the City transitions to a full-time Common Council SHOULD the City of Madison alderpersons be subject to term limits of twelve (12) consecutive years?

☐ Yes

☐ No

We didn’t reach consensus on this, either. If we do manage to land a socialist in a good district, do we want to have to worry about somebody rotating out? It is a long time period though, and people generally burn themselves out and don’t last 12 years on council. So this does not actually affect many seats in practice; but incumbents may stay longer if we end up paying a living wage.

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