Following the Money

The campaign finance reports are in. Let’s see what they tell us.

The reports cover the last half of 2022 and they were required for anybody running in the spring elections. (They’re also required for anybody who has a campaign committee and is raising money for any election cycle.)

The two major races on the ballot this spring are state Supreme Court and Madison Mayor. Here’s how they shape up in the early going.

The early money is on the women in the Supreme Court race. Liberal Janet Protasiewicz blew everybody away. She raised about $750,000, more than the three other candidates combined. Everett Mitchell, who is competing with Protasiewicz for the liberal (basically, Democratic in this ostensibly nonpartisan race) nomination, took in only $115,000. Combine that with his troubles over a messy divorce and I’d say he’s pretty much finished.

Janet Protasiewicz blew everybody away with her fundraising prowess in the last six months.

On the conservative (Republican) side Jennifer Dorow and former Justice Dan Kelly each raised just over $300,000. What’s important though is that Kelly has been setting himself up for a comeback for years and formally announced in September while Dorow rocketed to fame simply because she presided over the trial of Darell Brooks, the man who killed six people in the 2021 Waukesha holiday parade. Dorow announced in December and essentially raised $300,000 in one month. Republicans and conservatives may have concluded that Kelly has proven himself a loser and so they’ll try the charismatic Dorow instead.

Nothing’s happening in the Madison Mayors’ race, which is good for the incumbent. The amount of money raised by both serious candidates is shockingly small. Incumbent Satya Rhodes-Conway had only $10,545 in the bank back in July after more than three years in office. When I ran for reelection in 2011 I had more than twice as much — and I knew that even that was a fraction of what I should have raised by then. My relatively anemic fundraising (I hated raising money and it showed) is one thing that invited Paul Soglin to challenge me.

That’s maybe one reason that Rhodes-Conway does, in fact, have a serious challenger in Gloria Reyes, who is backed by Soglin, her former boss. Reyes, who formally announced in November, has raised $18,734, That’s respectable, but not impressive and not anywhere near enough.

Starting with that small $10,500, Rhodes-Conway has picked up her fundraising. She received $35,204 since July, so essentially she out-raised her challenger by two-to-one.

Of course each candidate also spent some money, so at the end of the period on New Year’s Eve, the incumbent had about $17,000 on hand while her challenger had $16,000. It usually takes about a quarter million dollars to run a successful mayoral campaign in Madison if the race is competitive. The bottom line here is that, while Rhodes-Conway is hardly tearing it up, Reyes needs to raise a lot of money real fast if she’s going to have a chance.

It doesn’t help her that she has a primary on February 21st. A third candidate is running for no apparent reason. He’s proud of the fact that he will raise no money. That still gets him into any forums that might take place before the primary, which is I suppose all he wants out of this. The problem for Reyes is that she really only has four weeks now. If she doesn’t come close in the primary, she’s finished.

Money isn’t everything in politics. But it’s not nothing either. And money tends to attract more of it. When you look like a winner there are those who want to win with you. So from this angle it looks like Protasiewicz is a shoe-in to clear the February primary, Dorrow looks like she’s got the edge to join her and Rhodes-Conway is looking to be in good shape for another term as Mayor.

And on another matter… last night the Dane County Board rejected a referendum on the county’s jail consolidation project. The Board hasn’t been able to decide how to proceed and now they don’t want any advice from the voters either. Here are the Supervisors who voted FOR the referendum. They deserve our thanks. Sups. Jerry Bollig, Aaron Collins, Patrick Downing, Analiese Eicher, Michael Engelberger, Holly Hatcher, Alex Joers, Tim Kiefer, Maureen McCarville, Kate McGinnity, Melissa Ratcliff, Andrew Schauer, Matt Veldran and Jeff Weigand.

Have a nice weekend.

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Following the Money

  1. I emailed my Dane County District 17 Supervisor Jacob Wright and have attached my comments to him:
    Hi Jacob,
    I see that you “did not” vote for the Dane County Jail referendum at last night’s Dane County Board meeting.
    The current Dane County Jail is a “disgrace & an inhumane way to live!”
    Sheriff Kalvin Barrett is a great leader of “social justice.” We need this “new” Dane County Jail to give inmates improved space, that will enable them to have better living conditions, along with agencies having classrooms available for counseling, mentorship, classes, job training, financial literacy, etc. for inmates being released to help them make it in this world today. Those who are repeat offenders who continue to put others in distress & into dangerous situations, need to be locked up, if they continue to risk others lives in deadly situations.

    Your Elvehjem Neighbor,


  2. Mayor Dave,
    Here is Jacob Wright’s reply & clarification to my email:
    Nancy Battist

    Wright, Jacob
    12:19 PM (19 minutes ago)
    to me
    Good afternoon,

    We definitely need a new jail facility. Yesterday’s vote doesn’t change the timeline for getting that to bid (and wouldn’t have, either way)—the design work is being finalized as we speak, then it’ll be audited and costed. We’re told this will be done in March. None of the recent votes have impacted this timeline.

    I did oppose the referendum, for two reasons: One, the question itself was misleading in terms of how it was to be worded on the ballot. (I looked into it to see if I could amend the wording somehow, but we on the Board can’t do that.) Two, and related to that, until the audit & costing work are done, we don’t actually know the full extent of the budgetary gap. So the possibility existed that we would ask you to vote for $x dollars only to find out that that isn’t enough.

    Appreciate your note, Nancy, and happy to dive into this topic more. This topic is hugely important for all the reasons you cite. Feel free to write back or give me a call. We could meet up at some point too, I’m just up the hill from you.

    Supv. Jacob C. Wright
    District 17
    Dane County Board of Supervisors


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