Ald. Mo Cheeks leads Madison mayoral candidates in early fundraising

January 16, 2019 GMT

Ald. Mo Cheeks leads the Madison mayoral contenders in fundraising, according to new campaign finance reports that present the first meaningful gauge of support in what could be a very pricey race.

The sums raised in the second half of 2018 — $333,000 combined by six candidates — dwarf amounts seen at this point in time in recent mayoral races. In the 2015 race, for example, five candidates had raised a total $90,000 by the end of 2014.

Cheeks, vice president of business development at MIOsoft, raised $113,118 for the reporting period from July 1 though Dec. 31. The finance reports were due Tuesday.

Next among those on the Feb. 19 primary ballot was Raj Shukla, executive director of the conservation organization River Alliance of Wisconsin, with $90,482, followed by Mayor Paul Soglin, $76,693, and former Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, who works for the UW-Madison think tank Center on Wisconsin Strategy, $52,311. Comedian Nick Hart was not required to file a report if his spending didn’t exceed $2,000.

Toriana Pettaway, the city’s racial equity coordinator, who was one signature short on her nominating petitions to qualify for the ballot but is running as a write-in candidate, reported receiving $355.

In the 2015 mayor’s race, Soglin had raised $60,585 in the same time period, while Ald. Scott Resnick, the challenger who ultimately survived the primary and lost in the general election, took in $14,494. In 2011, then-Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, in the same period, had raised $32,345 to challenger Soglin’s $16,200.

For the new reports, due to differences in how much candidates had as of mid-summer and spending during the period, Cheeks and Soglin had about the same amount in the bank at the close of 2018, followed by Shukla and Rhodes-Conway.

The top fundraisers all found something positive in the numbers.

“The investment in Mo’s campaign from hundreds of supporters from across the city shows that Madison is ready for a new mayor,” said Brita Olsen, Cheek’s campaign manager. “Our fundraising in 2018 demonstrated incredible momentum for Mo’s campaign and vision for an innovative, safe, and inclusive Madison.”

Shukla said, “People across Madison are hungry for politics built on hope, creativity, and common purpose. Our campaign brings new energy to take on affordable housing, improve our transit system, bring together a coalition around early childhood care, and grow a truly green city.”

Soglin, who has demonstrated fundraising prowess in mayoral campaigns, had an unusual start this time. In July, he said he wouldn’t seek re-election amid an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, but in mid-October, announced he’d be a late entry in the mayoral race.

“Our fundraising success in a short time speaks to the job Paul Soglin is doing as mayor,” Soglin campaign manager Melissa Mulliken said. “Paul has deep and broad support in Madison. Campaigns are about both financial resources and people power and we will have both going into the February primary.”

Rhodes-Conway, too, was optimistic.

“I’m thrilled by the outpouring of support we’ve received,” she said. “Over 400 people, the vast majority of which live in Madison, have stepped up and joined this campaign. It’s clear people are ready for a leader with the vision and experience to deliver results.”

For the reporting period:

Cheeks began with $0, raised $113,118, spent $37,755, and had a balance of $75,363.Pettaway began with $0, raised $355, spent $150, and had a balance of $205. She also had $2,407 in incurred obligations.Rhodes-Conway began with $8,818, raised $52,311, spent $36,031, and had a balance of $25,097. She had $5,596 in incurred obligations, and an outstanding loan from herself of $1,000.Shukla began with $0, raised $90,482, spent $24,007, and had a balance of $66,475.Soglin began with $7,788, raised $76,693, spent $9,344, and had a balance of $75,138. He also had an outstanding loan of $11,750.

The reports don’t cover financial activities this month, an important period as candidates enter the final weeks before the primary. It’s unclear if the reports show an unusual amount of early fundraising, with donations possibly tapering off, or if the campaign will set records.

In a very competitive race, the finalists can spend more than $250,000 each during the campaign. The general election is set for April 2.