Nine candidates square off in 2013 primary races for Madison city council

By: Joe Tarr 

Published in the Isthmus on 02/14/2013 

Twelve of the city's 20 Common Council districts will be contested this spring, but only three of them involve primaries on Feb. 19. Three people apiece are running for the 2nd, 13th and 15th district seats. The top two vote-getters in each district will square off in the April 2 general election.

All nine candidates can be painted in various shades as "liberal." But there are also subtle and important differences in experience, goals, energy and values.

Here's a breakdown of Tuesday's races.

District 2

The campaign to represent this district, which covers parts of downtown and the near east side, was originally crowded with five candidates. But a technicality bumped two of them — Arthur Kohl-Riggs and Colin Bowden — off the ballot because they failed to file their statements of economic interest by the deadline.

The district is now represented by Bridget Maniaci. Maniaci is a polarizing alder who unseated another polarizing alder, Brenda Konkel, in 2009. Konkel was a champion of the poor, neighborhood groups and open government. In contrast, Maniaci championed development projects, including the controversial Edgewater Hotel expansion, which was fought by historic preservationists and neighbors.

Although Maniaci isn't running again, development remains a central issue in the district.

Bryan Post, a data and analytics consultant for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, lives on the eastern side of the district in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, which is largely seen as Maniaci's base of support. Post, who is endorsed by Maniaci, wants "to encourage smart development on Madison's isthmus," as well as affordable housing and public safety.

Ledell Zellers, director of human resources for the Wisconsin Investment Board, has long been involved with Capital Neighborhoods and the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, and has served on city committees. Her home off Langdon Street was moved into the district last year through redistricting.

Also running is Dennis de Nure, a former mayoral candidate, who pushes his "Museum Mile" plan.

District 13

The only incumbent to face a primary challenge is Sue Ellingson, who represents this near-west-side district that includes neighborhoods of Vilas, Greenbush, Dudgeon-Monroe and Monona Bay. It combines high-density urban areas and traditional neighborhoods of both families and renters.

Ellingson, who was first elected in 2011, says she wants to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and work on improving the housing stock, especially in the Greenbush neighborhood.

Zach Madden, an Edgewood College student, is making his first run for office. He pushes for more active community participation and poverty reduction, along with pedestrian safety. He also wants to increase affordable housing and have more resident input on development.

Damon Terrell, a tutor who became more politicized during the Capitol protests, calls himself a product of Madison. He advocates for community gardens and sustainable agriculture, more support for Madison schools, and more affordable housing.

Listen to interviews with the candidates. 

District 15

Perhaps the most competitive primary is the one to replace Larry Palm (who was redistricted), with three well-known candidates. The east-side district borders Monona and includes portions of Stoughton Road, East Washington Avenue and Olbrich Park.

David Ahrens has worked for former state Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit), with the Wisconsin Council of County and Municipal Employees, and the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center. He would fight to maintain city services as state funding shrinks, combat poverty, develop affordable housing and work for tax equity.

Daniel Guerra Jr., is CEO of an Internet company and has long been involved with civic groups, such as NARAL Pro-Choice and Community Shares. He says he wants to work on economic development on the east side, reducing poverty, improving education and bolstering city infrastructure.

Hawk Sullivan is known for the State Street restaurant and bar Hawk's. He also owns the Jade Monkey in his district, and the Atomic Koi in Fitchburg. Sullivan has had his hand in downtown developments for years, but now wants more attention paid to his neighborhood. He promotes economic development, safety and the preservation of basic city services.

Listen to interviews with the candidates.