A couple of thoughts that surfaced to the top of my mind the day after an important spring election. Well, it was important here in Madison, and I’ll bring up why in a second. If you had spring general elections where you lived, know that it was important for your locale as well, and that you exercised your right to vote.
Perhaps the most noteworthy election occurred in the city of Chicago, which in Lori Lightfoot will see only its second female mayor, not to mention its third African-American mayor. (That her opponent was also black and female made it an historic campaign.) Lightfoot is also gay, and will become Chicago’s first openly LGBT mayor.
Lori Lightfoot’s victory is certainly noteworthy and historic in Chicago, certainly perking the spirits of her supporters and some optimism within the city’s LGBT community. But here in Madison, we had our own significant election this week, involving the person pictured to your right. Satya Rhodes-Conway has called Madison home for 20 years. She served on Madison’s City Council for 6 years and had been working with a UW—Madison-based think tank when she decided to run for the office of Mayor of the City of Madison.
Satya was among 6 candidates for mayor and placed in the top two when the first round of the election was held in February. The other person who advanced to this week’s election is perhaps best known by this moniker: “Mayor for Life.” No, don’t take that literally, but he did spend 22 years over 3 tenures as mayor that covered parts of five decades. That and the fact that his viewpoints and fighting spirit matched that of most of the citizenry (progressive, radical) gave one the sense that he could be mayor for as long as he lived on this earth.
But of late, this “Mayor for Life” seemed to turn people off. There was the sense, naturally, that he was in office for too long and seemed jaded and abrasive. Then he said he wouldn’t run for mayor again last year because he was running for governor of Wisconsin. But when that didn’t work out, he reversed course last October and decided he wanted another four-year term as mayor.
The citizenry, at least this week, thought otherwise, for the results of Tuesday’s election gave the mayor seat to Satya Rhodes-Conway. And by a very comfortable margin.
A couple good things about Satya Rhodes-Conway’s victory is that, for one, she seemed to run a rather positive, uplifting campaign. She was respectful to her opponents, but also ran on an issue-oriented platform of change. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the platform details here.
What’s remarkable as well is that perhaps the fact that Satya was a woman and openly gay was, for our fair citizenry at least, not the biggest factors about her or her mayoral candidacy. But one shouldn’t look past those aspects, as when she formally takes office in two weeks’ time(!), Satya will become only the second female mayor, as well as the first openly gay mayor, in our city’s history. (I’m tempted to say she’s the first openly LGBT mayor in Wisconsin’s history, but don’t quote me on that.) Satya didn’t forget that aspect in her victory speech, where she quoted Harvey Milk a couple of times, offered words of encouragement to young members of the LGBT+ community, and promoted engagement with municipal government.
Speaking of engagement in government, there was a certain someone whose candidacy for Madison City Council I took a passing interest to. No, I’m afraid it wasn’t in a canvasing-for-voters kind of way, nor was it a campaign-sign-in-my-lawn manner. Heck, this involved a totally different City Council district way on the other side of town. And it involved someone very familiar…
If you recall last October, I attended the OutReach Awards Banquet, and I did so en femme as Allison. It was at that very event that I sat not even ten feet away from — and might have been recognized by — a certain person I had an occasional professional relationship with in the past. Get your head out of the gutter when you hear that, for it was strictly professional, and occasional in that while I was working in the same company as Courtney (just like last time, that’s not her real name), neither of us were on the same team. But we did volunteer together at a couple of events our employer sponsored or contributed to.
In the years since we shared the same employer, Courtney has had a bit of a social justice bend in her professional life. She’s worked with a couple of progressive-leaning organizations here in Madison, even serving as president of one such entity’s Madison chapter. She has a couple of university degrees. And she’s worked with the campaigns of a few Democratic Party candidates.
Without a doubt, Courtney is, if you forgive the term, one smart cookie. So it wasn’t surprising when I learned at the beginning of this year that Courtney threw her hat in the ring for her district’s seat on the Madison City Council. She wound up in the top two after February’s primary… and on Tuesday [*drumroll*] she was victorious by a comfortable vote margin.
When Courtney takes the oath of office on April 16 (the same day Satya Rhodes-Conway becomes mayor), she’ll be one of nine new faces on Madison City Council. For sure, she and her fellow newcomers will have a bit of a learning curve to go through early on, including orientation, initial Council meetings, and, yes, listening to their constituents like a good politician is supposed to do.
Courtney and I follow each other on LinkedIn. The morning after Election Day, I left Courtney a message on there offering her congratulations on her victory, as well as wishing her the best of luck in serving her district and the city. I imagine Courtney will have lots of hard work and long hours ahead of her in her newly elected role, which may lead to a misstep or two along the way. But if Courtney and her fellow Council members stay committed to their job, it should be a rewarding experience.
So, yeah, there were some good news here in Madison and Wisconsin on Tuesday: An openly LGBT mayor was elected. A familiar face won her City Council election. And our city will hopefully have a good future ahead of itself as a result.
Now, if only all of that could have countered the fact that a disgustingly anti-LGBT, “Christian” judge appeared to have claimed a very close State Supreme Court race. Ugh.