Seats 6 and 7 were up for re-election in 2017 for the Madison School Board. Seat 7 Incumbent Ed Hughes had two challengers, Nicki Vander Meulen and Matt Andrzejewski, both of whom were endorsed by Progressive Dane. Michael Flores was retiring his post on seat 6 and there were three candidates vying to replace him. Cris Carusi, Kate Toews and Ali Muldrow ran for the open seat and PD endorsed Carusi and Muldrow.
After the primary on February 21st, Vander Meulen and Hughes emerged victorious, as did Muldrow and Toews. Carusi had a tough loss in the race as she was edged by Toews by a 470-vote margin and earned over 10,000 votes. Cris Carusi had many PD members who were active on her campaign and strong supporters.
As we moved forward to the general election, Incumbent Ed Hughes had a tragic family situation where his wife Ann was battling cancer. He ended his campaign with just about the entire community reaching out to support him and his wife. He has a strong successor for his seat in Nicki Vander Meulen.
Nicki has a story that is inspiring and instructive. She is a person living with a disability, specifically Asperger’s syndrome and cerebral palsy. Rather than be held back by these challenges, she has used them as a platform to help others achieve at the highest level in both the professional and civic space. She is an attorney who has represented juvenile clients, and this direct experience with youth has made restorative justice as opposed to incarceration a top priority of hers. Nicki achieved national fame when she challenged Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to close the loophole that allowed employers to pay disabled people substandard wages. We expect her to keep advocating for everyone in our community, and her election is an example of how we can all achieve our true potential and help our fellow citizens do the same.
Seat 6 was a much tougher race. Muldrow ran a strong grassroots campaign that energized many people, who in turn became engaged in local politics. She stressed the importance of closing the achievement gap and ran an election that focused on “The Love of Learning.” Her campaign attracted support at all levels of government including alders, county board members, state representatives, and judges. She also earned the endorsement of PD, the Four Lakes Green Party and a dual endorsement from the Dane Dems. Ali made innovative use of social media by running a number of live town halls. She was up against a tough opponent in Kate Toews who touted her business experience during the campaign, and who earned the coveted endorsement of Madison Teachers, Inc.
The campaign wasn’t without controversy. Wisconsin State Journal erroneously reported that Muldrow supported vouchers. It was clear from day one in the campaign that this was false. The story was later corrected and both The Capital Times and State Journal printed clarifying articles. However, as news spreads quickly over social media, this was an obstacle in her campaign, and one example in a pattern of hyper-scrutiny on her candidacy.
Ali Muldrow ran her campaign with intelligence, empathy and grace. Even in defeat she offered inspiration: “There is so much power and strength and love and respect for one another, and that can’t be stifled by the result of an election.” She had kind words of support her opponent: “Kate Toews, you ran a Beautiful campaign and will be a tremendous leader. Thank you for running I have learned so much from you!” She concluded her remarks to her supporters by saying: "What I knew I'd say whether I won or lost, is: let's get to work." We couldn’t agree more.