Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who's watching the local races, anyway?

The rumblings and general chatter about the race for District 5's County Supervisor position have officially begun, and contrary to what most people probably thought (if they thought about it at all) just a couple of months ago, it looks to be an interesting and close contest. The decision will be between freshmen UW student Conor O'Hagan and senior UW student Wyndham Manning. Both seem to be fired up about the race, both bring experience in student government and other organizational positions to the table, and both are definitely left-of-center politically. Manning, however, has the benefit of a few more years on campus under his belt, while O'Hagan boasts a fresh pair of eyes.

I don't live in District 5 anymore, having thrown off the shackles of my student days and moved to greener pastures over in District 6 (which will feature a race between incumbent John Hendrick and challenger Mark Schmitt), but I'll still be watching that race with some interest.

Full list of candidates for the board here.

Already there are allegations flying back and forth between supporters of the two candidates. Whoever ends up getting elected will be taking over for Ashok Kumar, who has garnered his fair share of scrutiny for his board meeting attendance record and his accusations of racial bias against some of his critics. Any connection to Kumar, perceived or real, will likely be met with a great deal of criticism and scorn, especially from the more right-leaning side of campus.

A few bravely anonymous voices in the wilderness have even gone so far as to accuse Manning of being Kumar's "hand-picked" successor, while others claim that O'Hagan is the newest tool of the UW Democrats. Raucous debates about Kumar, especially, and now the two new candidates as well have gone down over at the Critical Badger, who has made it his mission to cover this race extensively. A quick thumbing through CB's archives will bring up a great deal of content concerning Kumar, the UW Dems, Progressive Dane and UW Republicans. It's not unbiased, but it's certainly interesting (read the latest "interview" with O'Hagan and the comments left for some insight into this battle).

As with a lot of Madison politicking, it all seems to boil down to different visions of what it means to be a Democrat, and/or a progressive, and/or a liberal. There's a great deal of infighting between those seen as the "establishment" (UW Dems, for instance) and those who call themselves the "outsiders."

I fully support continued and ardent debate over the path and policies of the left-leaning parties and people in this city (and beyond), but I don't wish to see us eat our own. We must be honest with ourselves when we make mistakes, and hard working when we identify a worthwhile goal. Unfortunately, that's a hard task when egos and ambition get in the way, which is the case all too often when it comes to politics. I'm hoping this race doesn't get too bogged down by it, but I'm not holding my breath.


Daniel S. said...

As much as we all wish these were about great debates on Madison's future, anyone connected to campus politics will tell you: it's about who knocks on doors the most, so it may not truly represent a democratic thought process

Emily said...

Understood. Still a shame, and I would still hope that voters would give even a cursory glance at the substance of what their candidates were saying before casting their ballots.

Daniel S. said...

Well, they might. Last year I know many students in the dorms were saturated with literature from Lauren Woods and Eli Judge. Many voted for Judge because they had met him face-to-face.

Frankly, how many will understand what a "TIF" is, or what the "RTA" stands for? Local politics and policy, to a student from Milwaukee or NY, will seem quite irrelevent.

Oh, it also does not help that the UW "bans" campaiging in dorms, which makes it a cat and mouse game with RAs. Not a good atmosphere.

The Lost Albatross