City News

Soglin, Rhodes-Conway meet for debate before mayoral election

Mayor Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway met Tuesday at UW-Madison for a debate one week before the general election to decide Madison’s next mayor. 

Mayor Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway met Tuesday at UW-Madison for a debate one week before the general election to decide Madison’s next mayor. 

Image By: Will Cioci

On April 2, Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway will go head-to-head in the election for Madison’s mayor. Soglin seeks to continue his 22-year-long record as mayor, while Rhodes-Conway hopes to bring a fresh approach. They met Tuesday on UW-Madison’s campus at a student-hosted debate to discuss their policies and goals if elected.

In his opening statement, Soglin argued the race had become “claims by two candidates as to who’s more progressive.” He said that citizens should look to each candidate’s record and performances and that Rhodes-Conway’s time on city council was “one of the worst four years for the city economically for communities of color.” 

In her statement, Rhodes-Conway argued “everyone in Madison should have the opportunity to thrive.” She explained her main focuses as mayor would be improving affordable housing and rapid transit, as well as working on the need to focus more on incorporating racial equity and being prepared for the impacts of climate change.

One major topic debated by the candidates was their stance on policing and specifically how they differ in their views on the subject. Soglin cited his peer support program implemented in 2017, which he argued drastically reduced the number of homicides and car thefts in Madison. He said the peer support program proved to be “critical in regards to working with disaffected youth.” 

In response, Rhodes-Conway argued they differ in calling for increased accountability with the leadership of the police department. She also called for increased community input in policing as something she wants to work on if elected, as well as decreasing the amount of officers in public schools.

The candidates also addressed their proposals to fix issues in Madison public schools such as the achievement gap, student safety and funding. Rhodes-Conway said the city should be  thinking about “the barriers between young people and learning.” She argued creating affordable housing, increasing access to public transit and food, and strengthened community supports are main ways to address issues in schools. 

Soglin cited his program Madison Out of School Time (MOST) that created extracurricular programs for kids, arguing out of school programs help cut down on “one of the greatest disparities in terms of academic success.” He also mentioned his administration’s expansion of community centers for kids in school, pointing to three new centers opened during his time as mayor.

When asked to discuss the biggest difference between the candidates, Soglin argued it is his ability to bring about improvement, shown from direct results of his time as mayor. Rhodes-Conway, however, claimed that Madison needs a mayor who “is willing to learn” and has a collaborative style to better work with school districts, the county and the state.

In her closing statement, Rhodes-Conway explained that she was ready to start working and taking action. She argued she would bring to the mayor’s office “a collaborative leadership style and the courage to tackle the tough issues regardless of the consequences to my political future.” Soglin described his strong commitment to the people who have elected him.  

Soglin said he has always been truthful to the people of Madison and has kept their best interests in mind. 

“I made an agreement with myself that I would never be in a situation where I knew about something, but I didn’t do anything about it,” he said.

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