Stephanie and I were just two of the thousands of hands a candidate shakes. It was 2007, Satya Rhodes-Conway was running for Madison's Board of Alders, and she was pressing flesh at the Eastside Farmer's Market, where we were buying rhubarbs and green peppers. We spoke with her very briefly, just a few sentences, but we liked her, we voted for her, and she won.
When she was our alder, her centerpiece issues were improving pedestrian safety (important to Steph and I, as we live just a few blocks from Washington Avenue, which is Madison's "Main Street"), improving public transit (I'm a huge believer in buses), and affordable housing and economic development issues in our district. We wrote her a letter once — I don't remember what we were on about —and Satya replied with an intelligent note that clearly wasn't a form letter.
She was always Satya, by the way. Steph called her Satya, never by her last name. For a long time I'm not sure I knew Satya's last name.
We spoke with her a few other times, once at a political rally and once when we just happened to be taking a walk in Warner Park, and so was Satya. Always she was personable, always her politics made sense and matched ours, and when her name was in the news, it was always for proposing something or taking a stand that we agreed with. Steph would wave the newspaper in the air, or point at some article on-line, and she'd say, "Satya!" Which doubtless sounds silly (because it was silly), but Stephanie & I often communicated "Happiness!" by semi-shouting a simple word or phrase very happily. Satya was our favorite local politician, so we sometimes semi-shouted, "Satya!"
After a few terms in office, though, Satya decided not to seek re-election in 2013. She went to work for a local think tank and policy advocates' group called the Center on Wisconsin Studies — yeah, COWS. We were sad to see her go, and obviously, we knew that would be the end of Satya's political career.
Except, weirdly, it wasn't. After five years out of the headlines, Satya announced last summer that she was running for Mayor of Madison. Stephanie was delighted when she told me, and it was good news, yeah, but I was pretty sure that she didn't have a chance. You can't disappear from the news for that long and then come back and expect to win the Mayor's job.
Even more impossible, she was running against Paul Soglin, Madison's Mayor-for-Life. Soglin was first elected Mayor in 1973, and while four other people have been Mayor between then and now, whenever Soglin decided he wanted to be Mayor again, he was unbeatable. He'd been Mayor for 22 of the last 45 years.
The election was yesterday. I voted for Satya. She won in a landslide. Politics isn't allowed on this website, unless it's Stephanie's politics, and today it is. Steph would be smiling big this morning, and she'd be saying, almost shouting, "Mayor Satya! Mayor Satya!"