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Democrats And Progressives Compete For Control Of Burlington City Council

A white sign that says "vote here" on a brick street in Burlington.
Liam Elder-Connors
/
VPR File
Democrats and Progressives in Burlington are vying for control of the city council this Town Meeting Day.

Democrats and Progressives in Vermont’s largest city are vying for control of the city council this Town Meeting Day. Eight of the 12 seats on Burlington’s City Council are up for a vote on Tuesday.

There are 14 candidates across the eight races, with three incumbent candidates running unopposed: Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul, Ward 3 Progressive Brian Pine and Ward 7 Progressive/Democrat Ali Dieng.

The Progressive Party is looking to expand its clout and win an outright majority. The party ousted two incumbent councilors last year on Town Meeting Day and is hoping to repeat that performance this year.

Josh Wronski, executive director of the Vermont Progressive Party, said this year’s slate is made up of a number of young, political newcomers who are passionate about Burlington.

“We’re seeing so many young people, people in their early 20s or early 30s. They’re wanting to say, 'No, this is our time too, and we actually have a vision and a voice we want to have on the city council.'" — Josh Wronski, Executive Director, Vermont Progressive Party

“We’re seeing so many young people, people in their early 20s or early 30s,” he said. “They’re wanting to say, 'No, this is our time too, and we actually have a vision and a voice we want to have on the city council."

Wronski pointed to a number of issues in the city, like the long-delayed mall redevelopment and turmoil at the police department, as reasons why more young people are getting involved in city politics.

But Democrats also see an opportunity to pick up seats this election and tip the council in their favor.

Sam Donnelly, the chair of the Burlington Democrats, called this year’s council races “kinda like a standoff,” but he said he was optimistic about the Democrats’ chances.

“When I look at the path to how we get there, I think we have competitive races in Wards 8, 1 and 2,” he said. “I’d say the party is heavily focusing over there.”

"When I look at the path to how we get there, I think we have competitive races in Wards 8, 1 and 2. I'd say the party is heavily focusing over there." — Sam Donnelly, Burlington Democrats Chair

In Ward 1, Independent Sharon Bushor, a long-serving councilor, faces two challengers: Democrat Jillian Scannell and Progressive Zoraya Hightower. Meanwhile, Democrat Adam Roof, who until this election ran as an independent, is up against Progressive Jane Stromberg.

Ward 2 Progressive Max Tracy, the incumbent, faces Democrat Ryan Nick. In Ward 5, Progressive Nate Lantieri is challenging Democratic incumbent Chip Mason.

This year’s Town Meeting Day could also see the end of an era: Kurt Wright, the sole Republican on the council, opted not to run. In December, Wright, the co-host of a morning radio show, said he wouldn’t seek re-election in Ward 4 because, due to federal broadcasting rules, he’d have to leave his radio job for two months to campaign.

However, there is still a chance Wright will stay on the council: A citizen group in has staged a “Write in Wright” campaign. Wright, who is not involved with the effort, told Seven Days he’d serve on the council if he won.

The two candidates who appear on the ballot in Ward 4 are Sarah Carpenter, who won the Democratic and Progressive endorsements, and Independent Ericka Redic. Redic ran last year in the North District race, but dropped out and endorsed Democrat Franklin Paulino, the eventual winner.

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