Mayoral write-in hopeful asks opponents to back her candidacy

February 12, 2019 GMT

The campaign manager for Toriana Pettaway, Madison’s equity coordinator and a write-in candidate for mayor, is asking the four others challenging Mayor Paul Soglin to drop out and unite behind her as the best suited to address racial equity and social justice.

But the other hopefuls — Ald. Mo Cheeks, Nick Hart, former Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway and Raj Shukla — are giving no indication of dropping out.

In an admittedly “unorthodox message” sent last week, Eric Upchurch II, Pettaway’s campaign manager, said an effort to address serious racial equity and social justice challenges is best led by a woman of color with expertise on the subjects.


“If you’ve been active in the city, you know that Tori is a multi-degree holding racial equity and social justice expert who has spearheaded human services structures, union support and collaborative initiatives that have changed our city,” Upchurch wrote. “You know of the barriers she’s faced leading 26 city departments with a five-year vision, and uncovering heaps of nuanced internal barriers that it’s taken years to identify and will take a knowledgeable mayor willing to address.

“If we want to save Madison, I have to believe that our best bet — instead of fighting over it — is to let a black woman expert in the issues that make it the worst” in the nation, he wrote. “Imagine the courage it would inspire to show that leaders in Madison are capable of relinquishing power to the most marginalized and being led by their expertise.”

Although she did not send the letter, Pettaway posted a copy on her campaign’s Facebook page.

Upchurch said Monday none of the candidates had responded to his proposal.

In interviews with the Wisconsin State Journal, several of the candidates acknowledged the issues Upchurch raised are important but said they’re still in the race.

“I’m not here to tell those most impacted by racism what they need,” Rhodes-Conway said. “As mayor I will make sure to listen and engage with those most impacted, and to empower community leaders.

“I respect Toriana and this ask, but I still believe I am qualified to address the multitude of problems this city faces starting on my first day in office and I will work hard hand in hand with those most impacted by historical and present racism to build a city that works for them.”

Brita Olsen, Cheeks’ campaign manager, said, “Throughout his campaign for mayor, Mo has been leading the discussion on taking on our city’s persistent reputation as a tale of two cities, where Madison is the best place to live for some yet not everyone. Mo has put forward a robust opportunity agenda for how as mayor he plans to create a more inclusive, innovative, and safe city.”

Amanda Brink, Shukla’s campaign manager, said, “We believe in democracy — Madison voters will determine the next mayor of the city, and we are confident Raj will be their choice on both February 19th and April 2nd.”

The Soglin campaign declined to comment. Hart could not be reached.