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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Left: Courtesy of Travis Austin; Right: Courtesy of Jay Brower

Jay Brower, Travis Austin react to results of District 13 Dane County supervisor election

District 13 Dane County Supervisor candidate Travis Austin accused Supervisor Jay Brower of a lack of engagement with student voters after Brower’s reelection in the April 2 election.

District 13 Dane County Supervisor Jay Brower won reelection last Tuesday, drawing criticism from candidate Travis Austin for what he said he perceived as a lack of outreach to student voters.

Austin, a Town of Berry board supervisor, unsuccessfully challenged Brower for an appointment to the seat last fall after former Supervisor Olivia Xistris-Songpanya resigned in August. Brower was appointed to the seat by Board of Supervisors Chair Patrick Miles in September 2023 and won reelection on April 2.

District 13 contains a sizable number of student voters and incorporates much of Madison’s Regent Neighborhood and southern portions of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including residence halls and off-campus student housing. 

Austin won wards 56, 57, 58 and 59, which are primarily on or near the UW-Madison campus. Brower’s voter margins were predominantly from wards 63 and 64 further from campus on the Near West Side, though he narrowly lost within the four student wards by a total margin of 74 votes.

Brower won District 13 by a total margin of 460 votes, receiving 62.8% of the votes compared to Austin’s 36.2%.

After his loss, Austin told The Daily Cardinal he believed Brower relied on non-student voters to secure the district seat and accused Brower of “suppressing student votes.” When asked to provide evidence for the claim, Austin said it appeared Brower did “zero engagement or outreach to students besides snatching up endorsements.” 

“I don’t think his campaign knocked a single door East of Camp Randall. At least I never encountered a voter over there that had heard from him,” Austin said. 

Austin added he has no evidence to back up his allegations besides “word of mouth from others.”

Brower was endorsed by multiple student leaders, including Xistris-Songpanya and District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan, a UW-Madison senior. The UW-Madison College Democrats also endorsed Brower.

Austin further claimed Brower swung the UW-Madison College Democrats endorsement meeting in his favor by bringing acquaintances to secure the endorsement. “Long story short, incumbents know how to work the system to get endorsements,” he said.

“We looked at the voter list, and there is absolutely no validity to the claim that Jay Brower’s campaign manager brought acquaintances along to get the College Dems endorsement. Only members voted,” said Whitman Bottari, communications director for the College Democrats of UW-Madison.

Brower told the Cardinal he actively engaged with students throughout his campaign through canvassing, peer-to-peer texting, campaign mail and outreach to student and other campus-area organizations. Additionally, Brower’s campaign manager, Logan Janssen, is a freshman at UW-Madison. 

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Brower also participated in open forums on campus and was interviewed by multiple student and local media organizations, including the Cardinal, The Badger Herald and WORT.

"Students make up a large percentage of voters in District 13, and I will continue to prioritize youth engagement in local government throughout my term as Supervisor," Brower said in a statement after winning the election. "I am committed to engaging with the campus community to ensure that the unique concerns of students are consistently acknowledged and acted on."

Brower told the Cardinal he intends to earn and maintain student support by building on the relationships he developed during his campaign.

“I also plan to continue attending and participating in the efforts of student organizations as well as identify opportunities for the County Board to align with organizations working in District 13 to improve housing and food access,” Brower said.

Brower told the Cardinal he credits the increase in student voter turnout to both his campaign strategy and what he said was Austin’s hard work throughout his campaign.

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