YSDA Ballot Recommendations

Early voting started in Madison yesterday and we’ve gotten reports of voters showing up at their voting site, staring blankly at the ballot, and mumbling, “what would YSDA do?”

Because we want to speed up the voting process for everyone, as a public service we’re offering our recommendations below. Feel free to take this to the voting station with you.

Supreme Court. You’ve got a choice between two partisan hacks. Janet Protasiewicz is the Democrat and Dan Kelly is the Republican in this ostensibly nonpartisan contest. Protasiewicz will vote to strike down Wisconsin’s restrictive 1849 abortion law and the Republicans’ extreme partisan gerrymander while Kelly will do the opposite. That’s all you really need to know. Here at YSDA we’d rather have a third choice of a thoughtful, objective jurist who will set aside their own views and follow the stronger legal arguments. But since that’s not an option we’ll go with the Democratic hack. (And a hack she is. Her performance in yesterday’s — thankfully only — debate was embarrassing.)

Madison Mayor. Both incumbent Satya Rhodes-Conway and challenger Gloria Reyes are good people. Rhodes-Conway has done a decent job and there’s every reason to believe that Reyes would do the same if given the chance. They have some minor differences, but nothing significant. YSDA recommends that you vote for one of them.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Madison School Board. Since Protasiewicz and Rhodes-Conway are both likely to win easily and all the referenda below will pass by wide margins, this is the only really interesting race on our ballot. It pits Badri Lankella against Blair Mosner Feltham for one open seat on the seven-member board. We like Lankella because he shows some promise of providing an outsider’s perspective (though he has two kids in the Madison schools) on the board. We went into more detail on this yesterday, but we are even more strongly in favor of Lankella after last night’s school board debate. Near the end of the debate, Mosner Feltham made the outrageous statement, without providing evidence, that “schools are the product of white supremacy.” She went on to attack Lankella for recognizing that competition is a good thing and that it prepares students for the world beyond the classroom. We had thought it was a close call between the two, but now it’s clear that Mosner Feltham would be a terrible choice.

Bail. There are two constitutional amendments on the ballot, both related to releasing criminal defendants before trial. The first asks if you support allowing judges to impose conditions of release on accused persons, “to protect the community from serious harm.” The second would allow judges to consider a defendant’s criminal record and other factors in setting bail. YSDA recommends a “yes” vote on both, though there’s probably less here than meets the eye. Republicans are using the Darrell Brooks case as leverage for these. But Brooks, who killed and injured parade-goers at the 2021 Waukesha holiday parade, was out on low bail because of a clerical snafu. Had the prosecutor had all his information before her, she would have asked for a higher bail amount and probably gotten it. Nonetheless, we here at YSDA are against crime. We’re for keeping the bad guys locked up. These amendments — which will pass by wide margins no matter how you vote — might protect the public a little more, and so we’re for them.

Work requirement. The Republicans put another question on the ballot — this one advisory — in a goofy and transparent attempt to run up conservative votes for the Supreme Court race. This one asks, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?” Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Of course they should and, in most cases, they already are. YSDA recommends not voting on this question since it’s such a sham.

Redistricting. Not to be outdone by the Republicans, Dane County liberals put their own bogus advisory question on the ballot. This one reads, “Should the Wisconsin Constitution be amended to require a nonpartisan system for redistricting legislative and congressional districts in the state?” Gosh, I wonder how Dane County voters will come down on that one. And, of course, it will have zero impact with the Republican Legislature. Like the welfare question, it’s a silly exercise since the Supreme Court contest will generate its own turnout. When you think about it, the whole damn thing is pretty insulting to voters. We recommend sitting out this one as well.

Right to privacy. If you thought the last two questions were insulting, try the next one. Apparently, redistricting wasn’t enough for Dane County liberals so they slapped another senseless question on the ballot. This one asks whether the state constitution should provide, “a new right to privacy, that would protect rights such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and interracial marriage?” Of course it should, and when Dane County voters overwhelmingly approve this it will have no impact whatsoever. This question is just senseless pandering and manipulation. Again, any voter with an ounce of self-respect will leave this question blank. We can only be thankful the county board didn’t ask (again) how we feel about marijuana.

Madison alder terms. This question asks if Madison alders should serve staggered two-year terms as opposed to the current system where all 20 seats are up every two years. The idea is to provide more continuity, but even in a big turnover year the Council switches out about half the seats. Doesn’t seem like a big deal to us. YSDA recommends you flip a coin. We just don’t care.

It’s not on the Madison ballot, but another race worth watching is for the state Senate seat vacated by long-time Republican Sen. Alberta Darling in the Milwaukee suburbs. You would think that Republicans should keep this seat, but Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin is running a strong campaign and the area is becoming more liberal. We’re pulling for her even if we can’t pull the lever (metaphorically) for her. Her victory would keep the GOP from regaining a veto proof majority in the Senate, though they will still fall a couple votes short in the Assembly in any event.

Also, there’s the runoff for Mayor of Chicago where the hard-left Brandon Johnson faces off against the more sensible Paul Vallas. With concern about crime and schools rising there, we like Vallas’ chances. Moreover, if Vallas wins it will be yet another indication that the hard-left agenda is losing steam even in the most liberal places.

So there you have it. The view on the April ballot from a somewhat cranky, center-left perspective. You’re welcome.


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

8 thoughts on “YSDA Ballot Recommendations

  1. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll follow most of them.

    I didn’t watch the Supreme Court debate because I already know how I’ll vote but the news coverage that I read said that Kelly accused Protasiewicz of already having made up her mind on the big issues. He stated that he would rule according to the merits of each case. Such bullshit. The only reason that the conservatives still control the court is that in the 2019 race, Democrat Lisa Neubauer tried taking that high road but lost to Brian Hagedorn, who was clear on his opinions. That was a race she should have won. The left learned its lesson and since then, its candidates have been upfront on how they’d vote on big issues. Partisan hacks? Certainly. Both candidates check that box. I do like it, however, when the choices are obvious.

    Also, Dan Kelly got his JD from Regent University, a Christian diploma mill in Virginia whose founder and current president is the televangelist (and noted legal scholar) Pat Robertson. That, in itself, should disqualify him.

    I think Judge Janet’s going to win this one and look forward to April 5, when I can watch Jeopardy! without political ads.


    1. All true, but I have to say that if I voted knowing nothing of the candidates except how they performed in last night’s debate I’d vote for Kelly hands down. Good thing for Protasiewicz that there was only one debate and virtually no one will see it.


  2. I early voted yesterday at Pinney Library and a common refrain I heard while waiting in line was, “Have you heard what YSDA would do?” “I’m not sure I know what to do without YSDA’s guidance?” “Maybe I should wait to vote until I know what YSDA wants me to do!” The wailing could be heard all the way out to the parking lot, scaring many small children.


  3. Your endorsement says, “we’ll go with the Democratic hack. (And a hack she is. Her performance in yesterday’s — thankfully only — debate was embarrassing),” but you don’t say why. Why? We both know that the Supreme Court is not supposed to be some sort of super-legislative partisan body. It’s not because of abortion or even gerrymandering, although the latter begins to get at the heart of the matter.

    Let me help. Democracy rests on the law. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of laws. Kelly clearly has put other interests above the law. “Kelly has also questioned the conservative credentials of Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn for joining the court’s three liberals in a 4-3 decision throwing out Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his 2020 election loss. Kelly had previously endorsed Hagedorn. ”


    He made $120,000 consulting for the people who were trying to overthrow an election. Have you read “The January 6th Report”? See Chapter 2, “I Just Want to Find 11,700 votes”. This was a concerted effort to have state legislatures overthrow an election that complied with their own legal procedures. In other words, to have politics throw out the law. Including in Wisconsin.

    This isn’t normal politics: he said, she said; tit for tat; pros and cons on policy matters. We can handle that. This is about a Supreme Court candidate who supported overthrowing the constitution of the United Sates of America. I can hardly imagine worse!

    You need to say that. Moderates believe in democracy and law. I’m a moderate and moderates have values and paramount is democracy and opposition to people who actively serve to usurp it. Therefore I’m dead set against Dan Kelly becoming a Supreme Court justice. Vote Protasiewicz.

    And besides, we like candidates with unpronounceable names.


    1. I don’t disagree with any of this. I will say that, if I didn’t know anything about the candidates except what I saw during that hour of debate, I’d vote for Kelly. In truth they’re both political hacks, but Protasiewicz came off as a much more aggressive and ham-handed one. And I don’t get it. She’s in the lead. I don’t understand why she agreed to debate in the first place. Then it turns out she’s awful on television to boot. Eyes darting around like Richard Nixon. And she attacked Kelly as if she were running from behind and had to tear him down. None of it made any sense. But I assume it won’t matter. This race is a referendum on abortion, and about two out of three Wisconsinites are pro-choice while about 85% of us support exceptions for rape and incest that the 1849 law (which Kelly would uphold) does not allow for. That and gerrymandering are why I’ll vote for Protasiewicz, but I don’t regard her as the kind of candidate I’d like to see on the Supreme Court.


      1. Here’s a text I got from Kelly just now:

        “Vote early today for Judge Daniel Kelly. He is the only candidate that will put parental rights ahead of the woke left’s unending thirst to trans our children. Everythings on the line. We must stop them and save our children. Vote for Judge Daniel Kelly by April 4th and save Wisconsin’s children.

        What legal issue is he referring to? The Republicans have gotten way too good at posing for holy pictures in public and then doing their worst when they’re in power. I don’t put much weight on what is said in a debate in this climate.


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