Paul Soglin

Paul R. Soglin (born April 22, 1945) is an American politician and former three-time Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, having served a total of 22 years in that office between 1973 and 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he was a candidate for Governor of Wisconsin in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Paul Soglin
Paul Soglin 2011.jpg
51st, 54th, and 57th Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin
In office
April 19, 2011 – April 16, 2019
Preceded byDave Cieslewicz
Succeeded bySatya Rhodes-Conway
In office
April 18, 1989 – April 15, 1997
Preceded byF. Joseph Sensenbrenner Jr.
Succeeded bySusan J. M. Bauman
In office
April 17, 1973 – April 17, 1979
Preceded byWilliam Dyke
Succeeded byJoel Skornicka
Personal details
Born (1945-04-22) April 22, 1945 (age 75)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
ResidenceMadison, Wisconsin
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison (B.A., J.D.)

Early life and educationEdit

Soglin was raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. He attended Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Career Academy), and graduated from Highland Park High School in 1962. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) in the fall of 1962 as a pre-medical student, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts with honors in history in 1966. After spending three years in the UW History graduate program, he went on to earn a Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1972.


While at Hyde Park, Soglin was active in the Civil Rights Movement participating in sympathetic boycotts of the F. W. Woolworth Company five and dime store on 53rd Street in the spring of 1960.[citation needed]

In Highland Park, Illinois Soglin and a few classmates participated in House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) protests by attending showings of Operation Abolition and challenging the red-baiting assumptions of the film.[citation needed]

In 1962 he was elected treasurer of the UW-Madison chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[1][2] In October 1963, Soglin joined 200 classmates at a rally on the steps of the Memorial Union protesting the presence of U.S. military advisers who were suspected of active participation in the Vietnam War.[3]

In 1964 a group of suburban women partnered with William Moyer, Grace Mary and Hub Stern and other Chicago area activists focusing their Housing Opportunities Program through the Chicago Regional Office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The effort which was to create open housing in the Chicago suburbs was known as the North Shore Summer Project (NSSP).[4] In the late spring of 1965 Soglin and a dozen other college students set out in suburbs such as Winnetka, Wilmette, and Kenilworth going door-to door with petitions calling for real estate agents to show and sell homes to "Negroes".[4][5] Before the summer was out volunteers had contacted over 600 home sellers and over 1,500 other residents.[4][5]

Soglin participated in demonstrations against the Dow Chemical Company on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus in 1967. Dow had come to the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus to recruit engineering students as potential new employees, but students protested the company's presence because of Dow's role in the manufacture of napalm and Agent Orange used in Vietnam.[6][7] Beaten by police during the demonstrations,[8] Soglin was elected to lead the subsequent student strike.

Much of this demonstration was captured on film, and an interview of Soglin by journalist and author David Maraniss served as the basis for several chapters of the book They Marched Into Sunlight, and for the PBS documentary Two Days in October. Interview footage with Soglin also figures prominently in the documentary, The War at Home (1979), which chronicled the history of Madison in the Vietnam War era.

Political careerEdit

While a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin–Madison History Department, Soglin was elected to Madison's Common Council in 1968.[9] He was re-elected in 1970 and 1972. In November 1972, Soglin announced that he was a candidate for mayor of Madison. He advanced in the March 1973 primary election,[10] and upset incumbent Mayor William Dyke in the April 3, 1973, spring general election.[11]

In May 1969, Soglin, while representing the Eighth Ward, was arrested twice at the first Mifflin Street Block Party. He was tried and found guilty of failing to obey the lawful order of a police officer.[12] The charge of unlawful assembly was dismissed in Dane County Courts. The arrest was later described as a "badge of honor," as Soglin was intentionally defying the city's attempt to ban the left-wing gathering.[13]

Soglin served as mayor of Madison for three terms, from 1973 to 1979. In 1975, Mayor Soglin gave the key to the city to Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro.[14] From 1979 to 1980 he was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.[15] After working for nearly a decade as a lawyer in Madison, Soglin returned to office in 1989, serving three additional terms as mayor until 1997. In October 1996 he announced he would resign as mayor effective April 1997, regardless of the outcome of his congressional campaign. At the time Soglin was campaigning for the United States House of Representatives, seeking to represent Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district in the election scheduled for November 5, 1996. His bid was unsuccessful. In 2003, he sought election again as mayor of Madison and was defeated by a narrow margin by Dave Cieslewicz.[16][17]

Soglin returned to city politics in 2011 as a candidate in the 2011 mayoral election, where he defeated the incumbent Cieslewicz in a close race.[13][18] He took the oath of office for his third stint as mayor on April 19, 2011. During his first year back in office, Soglin attempted to put an end to the Mifflin Street Block Party, no longer an event with political content but marked by knifings, sexual assaults, and significant transports to detox. As with earlier attempts, the attempt to shut down the block party was unsuccessful but by 2017 the sexual abuses and assaults were all but eliminated. After returning to office in 2011, food policy in the city became a priority for Mayor Soglin. In 2013, he was named Chairman of the Food Policy Task Force of the United States Conference of Mayors.[19] He initially served as co-chair with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and later was co-chair with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. The task force was established to develop strategies to increase access to healthy, affordable food in low-income communities, increase food procurement from local sources, promote food-related economic development, and reduce obesity. In 2018, Soglin and Bowser, at the 86th winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., announced they would join 160 other cities in signing the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.[20]

On April 7, 2015 Soglin was again re-elected defeating Alderman Scott Resnick with a record 72% of the vote 37,790 to 14,235.[21] Mayor Soglin jokingly said, using the rhetoric of his critics, "I'm the guy, if you can't tell the difference between us, who is identified as old, tired, gray and bland. Well, I'm going to show you old, tired, gray and bland."[22]

Soglin joined the 2018 campaign for governor of Wisconsin, running in the Democratic primary against nine other candidates.[23] Soglin eventually finished a distant seventh in the Democratic primary, losing to state superintendent Tony Evers, who would ultimately go on to defeat incumbent Governor Scott Walker in the general election.[24][25]

Despite initially stating during his gubernatorial campaign that he would not run for reelection as mayor of Madison, Soglin announced that he would be seeking another term in October 2018.[26] Soglin ultimately advanced through the February primary election, but was defeated in the April general election by former alderman Satya Rhodes-Conway. Rhodes-Conway became Madison's first openly-gay mayor, and only the second female mayor in the city's history. Soglin was defeated soundly in the election by a wide 62% to 38% margin. Rhodes-Conway won in over 80% of the city's wards, but ran up large majorities in the University of Wisconsin precincts that had first brought Soglin to office 46 years earlier.[27][28]

Accomplishments as mayorEdit

Among the changes and accomplishments on Soglin's watch:

  • Soglin led the project to construct the State Street Mall and the Concourse around the Capitol Square.[15]
  • Under his guidance, the city started its first day care program, providing certification for independent day care centers.[29]
  • During his first administration, the city coordinated renovation of several buildings on State Street to build the Madison Civic Center. (That center was later renovated and is now the Overture Center.)[15]
  • Soglin led reforms in the city's hiring of women and minorities.[30]
  • Soglin led the city of Madison's effort in the 1990s of Monona Terrace, to construct a building conceived by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s.[1]
  • In 1975, Soglin became the first U.S. mayor and only the fourth politician from the United States to meet Fidel Castro.[31][32]

Madison's bond rating (per Moody's Investment Services) was upgraded from AA to AAA status in Soglin's first term in office after he made a personal visit to the New York offices of the rating company.[33] Madison was also named to the most livable cities list several times during Soglin's second tenure as mayor, capturing the number one spot in 1996 [34] and again in 1998.[35]

In 2018 the Brookings Institution found that of the one hundred largest U.S. cities, "...only 11 metro areas achieved inclusive economic growth and prosperity by posting improvements across every measure: Cincinnati, Des Moines, Detroit, Greenville, Madison, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Portland, Providence, San Francisco, Spokane, and Washington, D.C."

Electoral historyEdit

Madison Mayor (1973, 1975, 1977)Edit

Madison, Wisconsin, Mayoral Election, 1973[10][11]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Primary Election, March 6, 1973
Nonpartisan William Dyke (incumbent) 16,243 36.16%
Nonpartisan Paul Soglin 11,485 25.56%
Nonpartisan David Stewart 10,350 23.04%
Nonpartisan Leo Cooper 6,150 13.69%
Nonpartisan R. Whelan Burke 283 0.63%
Nonpartisan David Robb 161 0.36%
Nonpartisan Joseph Kraemer 122 0.27%
Nonpartisan Mark Gregersen 27 0.06%
Scattering 105 0.23%
Total votes 44,926 100.0%
General Election, April 3, 1973
Nonpartisan Paul Soglin 37,548 52.35%
Nonpartisan William Dyke (incumbent) 34,179 47.65%
Plurality 3,369 4.70%
Total votes 71,727 100.0%

Madison Mayor (1989, 1991, 1993)Edit

United States House of Representatives (1996)Edit

Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district election, 1996[36]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Primary Election, September 10, 1996
Republican Scott L. Klug (incumbent) 26,750 45.39%
Democratic Paul Soglin 25,439 43.17%
Democratic Patrick J. O'Brien 6,576 11.16%
Libertarian Ben Masel 165 0.27%
Total votes 58,930 100.0%
General Election, November 5, 1996
Republican Scott L. Klug (incumbent) 154,557 57.36%
Democratic Paul Soglin 110,467 41.00%
Libertarian Ben Masel 4,226 1.57%
Plurality 44,090 16.36%
Total votes 269,450 100.0%
Republican hold

Madison Mayor (2003, 2011, 2015)Edit

Wisconsin Governor (2018)Edit

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election, 2018[24]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Primary Election, August 14, 2018
Democratic Tony Evers 225,082 41.77%
Democratic Mahlon Mitchell 87,926 16.32%
Democratic Kelda Roys 69,086 12.82%
Democratic Kathleen Vinehout 44,168 8.20%
Democratic Mike McCabe 39,885 7.40%
Democratic Matt Flynn 31,580 5.86%
Democratic Paul Soglin 28,158 5.23%
Democratic Andy Gronik 6,627 1.23%
Democratic Dana Wachs 4,216 0.78%
Democratic Josh Pade 1,908 0.35%
Scattering 221 0.04%
Plurality 137,156 25.45%
Total votes 538,857 100.0%

Madison Mayor (2019)Edit

Madison, Wisconsin, Mayoral Election, 2019[37][38]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Primary Election, February 19, 2019
Nonpartisan Paul Soglin (incumbent) 10,771 28.57%
Nonpartisan Satya Rhodes-Conway 10,448 27.71%
Nonpartisan Mo Cheeks 10,350 27.45%
Nonpartisan Raj Shukla 6,150 16.31%
Nonpartisan Nick Hart 283 0.75%
Scattering 346 0.92%
Total votes 37,706 100.0%
General Election, April 2, 2019
Nonpartisan Satya Rhodes-Conway 47,915 61.92%
Nonpartisan Paul Soglin (incumbent) 29,150 37.67%
Scattering 311 0.40%
Plurality 18,765 24.25%
Total votes 77,376 100.0%


  1. ^ a b Mollenhoff, David V.; Hamilton, Mary Jane (1999). Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace: The Enduring Power of a Civic Vision. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-15500-5.
  2. ^ "American Experience | Two Days in October | People & Events". PBS. 1967-10-18. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  3. ^ Daily Cardinal, October 15, 1963.
  4. ^ a b c "North Shore Summer Project collection 1965–1966". Chicago Collections Consortium. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  5. ^ a b "North Shore Summer Project Collection An inventory of its records at the University of Illinois at Chicago". Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  6. ^ The Capital Times, October 17, 1967.
  7. ^ "Agent Orange". 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  8. ^ Maraniss, David (2003). They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace Vietnam and America. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-1780-2. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  9. ^ The Capital Times, April 5, 1968.
  10. ^ a b Bauman, Michael (March 7, 1973). "Dyke, Soglin to Vie for Mayor". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2020 – via
  11. ^ a b Bauman, Michael (April 4, 1973). "Soglin ousts Dyke in record turnout". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2020 – via
  12. ^ The Capital Times, May 5–6, 1969.
  13. ^ a b Johnson, Dirk (September 10, 2011). "From Firebrand to a Bit of a Grump, a 'Hippie Mayor' Evolves". The New York Times. Madison, Wisconsin. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  14. ^ Mesch, Shelley K. (November 27, 2016). "Mayor Paul Soglin remembers Fidel Castro as 'a popular leader who inspired generations of Cubans'". La Crosse Tribune. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  15. ^ a b c "Soglin, Paul, 1945". Wisconsin Historical Society. December 30, 2005. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  16. ^ Wisconsin State Journal, April 2, 2003.
  17. ^ Milverstedt, Fred (January 13, 2011). "From the Archives: Paul Soglin talks about Madison's grip on him (November, 2002)". Isthmus. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  18. ^ "Paul Soglin is Madison's New Mayor". WMTV, NBC 15, Madison. April 6, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2011. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  19. ^ Mosiman, Dean (September 12, 2013). "Paul Soglin named to lead U.S. Conference of Mayors committee". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  20. ^ "City of Madison Signs Milan Urban Food Policy Pact" (Press release). City of Madison. January 26, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  21. ^ Wisconsin State Journal, April 8, 2015.
  22. ^ The Capital Times, March 8, 2015.
  23. ^ Sommerhauser, Mark (January 11, 2018). "He's running: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin joins Democratic field to challenge Gov. Scott Walker". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Canvass Results for 2018 Partisan Primary - 8/14/2018 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Elections Commission. August 31, 2018. pp. 1–2. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  25. ^ Marley, Patrick; Beck, Molly (November 6, 2018). "Tony Evers denies Scott Walker a third term as Wisconsin's governor". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  26. ^ Brockman, Jon (October 20, 2018). "Soglin reverses course, announces re-election campaign". The Daily Cardinal. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  27. ^ Brockman, Jon (April 5, 2019). "Rhodes-Conway won big in nearly every part of Madison, voting records show". The Daily Cardinal. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  28. ^ Beck, Molly (April 2, 2019). "Madison 'Mayor for Life' Paul Soglin loses election in what could be his last race". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  29. ^ Mollenhoff, David V.; Hamilton, Mary Jane (1999). Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace: The Enduring Power of a Civic Vision. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-299-15500-5.
  30. ^ Clara Penniman and Paula A. White Madison: an administrative history of Wisconsin's capital city, 1929–1979, Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, 1999, pp. 173–175
  31. ^ Erika Janik Madison: History of a Model City, The History Press
  32. ^ Mother Jones Magazine Nov 1978
  33. ^ The Capital Times, July 24, 1973
  34. ^ Money Magazine July, 1996
  35. ^ Money Magazine July, 1998
  36. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (1997). Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.). State of Wisconsin 1997-1998 Blue Book (Report). Madison, Wisconsin: State of Wisconsin. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  37. ^ 2019 Spring Primary (Report). Dane County Clerk. 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  38. ^ 2019 Spring Election (Report). Dane County Clerk. 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2020.


External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
William Dyke
Mayor of Madison
1973 – 1979
Succeeded by
Joel Skornicka
Preceded by
F. Joseph Sensenbrenner Jr.
Mayor of Madison
1989 – 1997
Succeeded by
Susan J. M. Bauman
Preceded by
Dave Cieslewicz
Mayor of Madison
2011 – 2019
Succeeded by
Satya Rhodes-Conway