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Why We're Voting for Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

What we stand to gain from showing up to vote on April 4

Two people wearing masks sit at a table with a young child coloring in "VOTE" coloring sheets while smiling at the camera.
People gathering for a Community Visioning and GOTV event on Sunday, April 2 co-hosted by Families for Justice and Freedom Action Now at the Madison Labor Temple.

Madison is an area deeply invested in its own origin story as a progressive city. To be sure, Madison boasts a long history of progressive advancements, including labor rights, strengthening the social safety net, women’s rights and opposing wars. But that history also casts a long shadow, concealing some harsh racial disparities that continue to this very day. This same Madison has appeared on lists as one of the best places to live and as one of the worst places to grow up Black. Coming off back-to-back presidential elections in which no less than 48% of Wisconsinites voted for a candidate openly flirting with fascism, xenophobia and sexism, progressive whites in Madison have a special responsibility at the ballot box in this cycle and the next, and we must take that charge seriously and consider our options carefully. Sometimes that choice is confused when two closely held values are competing with each other, as we are experiencing in this year’s mayoral election. As a Latina, challenger Gloria Reyes represents the diversity we hold dear, while incumbent Satya Rhodes-Conway represents the overall progressive politics we want to advance. So what is a progressive white voter to do? Of course, a person’s marginalized identity alone, be it queer or person of color, is no assurance that they will challenge the status quo or otherwise advance progressive ideals. In the final analysis, diversity by itself will not result in a progressive society. However, building a progressive society will definitely result in greater diversity. As a former police officer, Gloria Reyes spent her time on the school board woefully out of step with progressive values as she advocated for continued permanent police presence in our public schools, even as instances of abuse of power emerged and progressives across the country called for police free schools and an investment in our youth.

Person sits at table drawing on a white piece of paper destined for the Community Visioning board.

Not only are the police unable to solve the basic problems encountered by young people in school, police contact, particularly in school settings, has been demonstrated as detrimental to youth and disproportionately youth of color. We cannot vote for a candidate who is bent on criminalizing the very youth she should be saving. As such, we urge Madison’s white progressives to come out and vote for Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway on April 4th. But don’t just vote for her, make sure she knows you are voting for a progressive candidate and are expecting a progressive agenda coming from her office. In addition to the mayor’s race, there are two referendum questions on our April 4 ballots that would amend the Wisconsin State Constitution. Question 1 seeks to expand criminalization by increasing pretrial detentions, and question 2 seeks to expand cash bail. We urge progressive forces across the state to vote no on both questions to keep families together and reject the criminalization of poverty. Of course, voting in a municipal election is not the culmination of our work, it is just the bare minimum. If we want Madison to live up to its progressive ideals, we will have plenty of work to do. After the election, we have the responsibility to push Mayor Rhodes-Conway to advance the progressive agenda supported by those who put her in office, including investing in the youth of vulnerable communities and strengthening the social safety net for all. It will be up to us to make her accountable. To do that effectively, we must organize with other progressive forces in the area to amplify our voices and make our efforts more effective. We must support other progressive organizations in town as they launch powerful and exciting campaigns for social justice. And we must engage our white neighbors who are not so progressive, so that they can join us in our march forward. Vote April 4th and then get involved.

The community visioning board from the April 3 GOTV event. It reads "Our Communities Thrive With...." and under that, about 30 pieces of white paper are tacked up under it with children's drawings, VOTE signs, and other messages such as "Afforable housing, mutual aid, allcess to healthcare for alll bodies," etc.

Families for Justice is a network of people working to dismantle white supremacy in Dane County and beyond through multi-generational community organizing and direct action. Learn more here.

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