Juliana Bennett was elected to represent the UW campus on the Madison Common Council in Tuesday’s city-wide election of local officials. Other victors include Patrick Heck, District 2, and Nikki Conklin, District 9.
Bennett, a UW-Madison student and a cofounder of the BIPOC Coalition, became the first Black alder to represent District 8, which encompasses the UW campus and some surrounding neighborhoods. Bennett received 66.2% of the vote while challenger Ayomi Obuseh received 33.8%, according to Channel 3,000.
Fewer than 500 votes were cast in the District 8 election, compared to 4,600 votes from the same seven wards in the 2020 general election, according to data from the Dane County Clerk’s office.
In a press release, Bennett expressed her gratitude for the votes and support from the UW-Madison community.
“I want to thank every single person who supported me over these past few months. Running a grassroots, virtual and student/staff has not been easy,” Bennett said. “Despite many obstacles we still put forward a bold, unapologetically progressive platform and have worked to build a coalition of civically engaged young people.”
Bennett promised to use her position in local government to advocate for progressive policies that she feels will improve the lives of students as well as the broader Madison community.
“This is just the beginning of our movement. We have a long way to go before we win affordable housing, sustainability and other important goals that we've set during this campaign,” Bennett said. “I know that with the support of the community, we will continue to make our voices heard.”
Obuseh released a statement on Facebook Wednesday thanking her supporters and congratulating Bennett on her victory.
“The support we’ve seen for our vision for Madison shows that change has arrived,” Obuseh stated. “I’m confident that this new cohort will bring the legislation we deserve as a community and want to congratulate my opponent on her big win.”
Five days prior to the election, Obuseh denied claims made by an unnamed individual saying that they experienced sexual assault, which potentially placed her campaign in an unfavorable position. Obuseh told The Daily Cardinal her response was “reactionary.”
“When I wrote those words, it was because I was deeply hurt by my own experiences,” Obuseh said. “I [felt] as though someone was doing something that wasn’t ok.”
In District 2, which encompasses a large portion of Langdon St. and East Johnson, incumbent Patrick Heck received 61.8% of the vote, gaining his second term as alder and defeating local activist Benji Ramirez.
Heck stated that while in office, he will pursue progressive change while also maintaining what he feels to be the positive qualities of the Madison community.
“I believe we can focus on racial inequities and social justice while maintaining the aspects of Madison that have made it a wonderful place to live for so many people,” Heck stated. “I will advocate for everyone in all District 2 neighborhoods while doing everything I can to make sure that as we emerge from the challenges of 2020 we don’t simply strive to go ‘back to normal.’”
In District 9, longtime incumbent Alder Paul Skidmore was defeated by Nikki Conklin. Conklin won the seat against Skidmore, with 55.9% of the vote.
Conklin released a statement on Facebook voicing her excitement for her upcoming term and thanking those who supported her campaign.
“As your new elected Alder I will fight for quality affordable housing, equity and justice and safety for all among other things” Conklin said. “I want to thank everyone for all the support, love and encouragement they have shown me. Folks are ready for a change, and a vote for me, was a vote for change.
In recent years, the council has moved further left politically, which left Skidmore as an outlier. His outspoken defense of the Madison Police Department isolated him from local activists and their allies pushing for reform and budget cuts within the department since last summer.
Skidmore was also accused of calling a local activist a c*nt during a virtual council meeting last year. An investigation authorized by the city council into the incident was unable to definitively prove if Skidmore did say the slur.
The results of the election insinuate that the incoming council will be the most diverse and progressive council yet, according to the Cap Times.
Tuesday’s election also included a referendum regarding the salary given to city alders, the size of the common council, the length of alder terms and term limits in the common council. The questions came as a result of larger deliberations about if the common council should be structured with fewer representatives working full time to serve larger districts.