Friday, April 22, 2011

A hat tip to a clean election

In the midst of the celebrated state supreme court race -- the surrogate referendum on rookie Gov. Scott Walker -- there was an election for mayor of Madison in which the incumbent, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, lost his bid for reelection to former Mayor Paul Soglin.

This election is not just as asterisk in Wisconsin history or a footnote about Soglin getting a third crack at serving as Madison's mayor.

It really is a study about how two men can conduct a gentlemanly, above the belt campaign for political office, a rarity today.

Soglin and "Mayor Dave" confined their rhetoric to who has the best vision for Madison and the best skill set to get there.  The voters chose Soglin but, as The Capital Times, which endorsed Soglin, noted, they had to choose one or the other and a vote for Soglin was not a vote against Mayor Dave who did an able job of running the city for eight years.

After the election Soglin praised Mayor Dave for his civility and cooperation in the transition.  These two men showed us that it's possible for politicians to disagree on some issues without being disagreeable or disgusting. For his part, Soglin says he's not going to reject the good things Cieslewicz did for Madison but intends to build on them.  And Mayor Dave left office without even a hint of "sour grapes" but, to the contrary, by an exemplary show of courtesy and cooperation.

We joke a lot about "the People's Republic of Madison" and it being "an isthmus surrounded by reality" but in reality Madison has generally been a well-run city.  Other communities could learn from its successes, especially how to have an election in which while one candidate had to lose, everyone still won.

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