I recently sent an email to Michael Johnson, a candidate for the 5th district seat on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. I asked for an update on his campaign, and I told him I was specifically interested in how he would evaluate the incumbent, Wyndham Manning, a member of Progressive Dane who has been relentlessly criticized by the Badger Herald editorial board for his absence from meetings and policy (I am currently awaiting a response from Manning on what he has done during his two year term of office). I also asked Johnson if he would seek Manning’s endorsement.
Regarding Wyndham; I believe has done a respectable job as our County Supervisor here in the 5th district, maintaining a strong presence on the issues of his predecessor, Ashok Kumar, such as fair housing and equal rights. I think the problem that he ran into is the amount of time and energy needed to be a strong advocate on the board, and even the more mundane things like securing rides to his meetings further out in the county, which I believe contributed to his high number of absences. Overall, I think history will respect his contribution to Dane County as an elected official. Things I would do differently are really just connecting the popular social and political movements that I have worked with on campus and in the community to the halls of power so that they District 5 representative can have the power and unity of these movements to support their legislative efforts. Wyndham’s background is more connected to Madison’s cultural and musical circles, not so much the activist ones, so lacking that formal connection I think made him different from Ashok, so he came at the job differently, but to each his own. I did seek his endorsement, and he is enthusiastically supporting my efforts, including going door to door with me; I also received the support of his predecessors, Ashok Kumar(06-08) and Ech Vedder (98-06), as well as their city counterparts in District 8, Austin King(03-07) and Todd Jarrell (01-03).
But he also said the following:
I have mainly been meeting with student groups like SLAC, BSU and Greeks about my campaign, while going through the gauntlet of interviews with outside groups like labor unions and the chamber of commerce. I am happy to have gained some endorsements, from Progressive Dane, as well as elected officials like Alders Bidar-Sielaff and Rummel, and Supervisors Matano and Richmond among others.
What does this display about Johnson’s candidacy? On one hand Johnson seems committed to running a campaign with strong left-wing credentials to energize the PD base. Groups like SLAC represent blocs of committed voters who Eicher will probably ignore. Same with the Black Student Union (not necessarily left-wing). Ald. Marsha Rummel, who runs a leftist bookstore on Gilman St, can probably help connect Johnson to a fairly large group of non-student activists and voters as well.
Ultimately, no matter how much the largest paper on campus ridicules Johnson for accepting Manning’s endorsement, Johnson likely made a good call in taking whatever Manning could offer him. This will be an election with very few swing votes. Eicher will win the votes of all those active in the College Democrats and the best Johnson can do is try to mobilize the left in his favor.
So where do the more right-leaning constituencies that Johnson is courting fit in? Frats? Business? What’s his pitch to the frats? For him to motivate them to vote or (gasp) be active in a local campaign, I would guess he’d have to come up with something other than “bringing progressive action to the halls of power.” I would say the best bet is finding a frat opposed to some development, whether the Edgewater or Mendota Ct, and promising them to support their position. Regardless of whether it’s really a county issue, the common position could earn sympathy from the frat bros.
Any thoughts? Am I engaging in crude generalizations?