The race to be the next District 8 alder has officially begun as students announce their candidacy for the position. With a pool of progressives beginning to form and no incumbent, it could be anyone’s election this April.
Current Dis. 8 Ald. Max Prestigiacomo, who had previously expressed intent to run for re-election after his one-year-term, officially released a statement Tuesday confirming that he would not be running again for the student-majority district this April.
“I’ll admit, sometimes I find myself trying to justify taking up space as a privileged person like some of my colleagues,” Prestigiacomo said. “However, I know that my place in this movement is to actively recruit and seek out Black and Indigenous people of color with lived experience to run for office, which absolutely includes my own seat.”
Prestigiacomo had previously reached out to individuals in abolitionist organizations like the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition to recruit a BIPOC to run for his seat. He has confirmed that he had already spoken to two students that have so far expressed interest in the position. He is confident that either of them could take the lead.
“Juliana Bennett and Ayomi Obuseh, two committed Black Abolitionist organizers, are soon-to-be declared candidates for Dis. 8, and I couldn’t be more excited for their leadership,” he said.
Ayomi Obuseh, an organizer with Impact Demand, announced her candidacy on the Madison for Black Lives Facebook group on Sunday and later affirmed her intentions to run with the Daily Cardinal. She stated that she had begun her work as a youth activist and organizer when she was 15-years-old at Madison West High School and hopes to continue on the Madison City Council.
“Every single day of this past summer, I was at the forefront in advocating for the basic human rights of marginalized groups in Madison, specifically the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. With my past experience at the city council and State Capitol, I know I am more than capable to run for alderman of Dis. 8,” Obuseh said.
Bennet also confirmed her candidacy on Tuesday in response to Prestigiacomo’s statement. Like Obuseh, Bennet was also heavily involved in activism over the summer and served as a Co-Founder for the UW BIPOC Coalition. She later began attending City Council meetings, where she saw first-hand the difficulties in enacting change at the city level.
“I have been disappointed with the Common Council’s disregard for the systemic changes needed to uplift the needs of specific community members without a seat at the table,” she said to the Cardinal. “I know that our Common Council can do better, which is why I am determined to put the people, not politics, first.”
If elected, Bennet promises to utilize her platform as the Dis. 8 representative “to advance the efforts and elevate the voices of those too often shut out of the conversation.” She plans to directly engage with her constituents and represent all students on the council.
While both candidates are women of color and experienced organizers with backgrounds in social justice, both have yet to announce their campaign platforms or specific proposals they would introduce to the council. Still, Prestigiacomo seems confident that either of them could carry on Dis. 8’s progressive legacy.
In Prestigiacomo’s final five months on the Madison City Council, he plans to use his time to the fullest to accomplish his goals of dismantling the city’s harmful power structures.
“I fully intend to continue the disruption politics that have allowed us headway on issues of equity and sustainability. I am continuously grateful for the support and honored to serve,” he concluded.
The election for Dis. 8 alder will take place Tuesday, Feb. 16, during the Spring Election.