Two Republicans — one veteran and one newcomer — are seeking to hold onto their party’s meager presence on the Burlington City Council.
Monday marked the filing deadline for council hopefuls, meaning that the candidate pool for the seven open seats has solidified. Elections will be held on Town Meeting Day, March 4.
Democrats and Republicans are vying for two seats in Ward 4 and Ward 7; if Democrats secure both, they would lay claim to all four New North End seats, leaving Republicans without representation on the council.
Democrats currently control seven seats on the 14-seat council, while Progressives hold four, Independents two and Republicans one. Two incumbent Democrats and one Republican opted to vacate their seats this spring rather than seek reelection.
Kurt Wright, a state representative and former city councilor and mayoral candidate, will try to reclaim his old seat in Ward 4. Carol Ode, a first-time Democratic candidate, will challenge him. Also on the ballot is Loyal Ploof, a Libertarian who has run in the past.
Meanwhile, in Ward 7, two first-time candidates will face off: Thomas Treat, a Republican, and Bianka LeGrand, a Democrat. LeGrand’s political experience amounts to working on Mayor Miro Weinberger’s campaign and serving as vice chair for the group Young Democrats of Vermont.
The 32-year-old LeGrand moved to Burlington, and specifically Ward 7, in 1997 from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She said her priorities are addressing housing affordability and tax rates in the city, and she wants to start a bike-share program in the style of New York City’s.
Progressives, meanwhile, are well positioned to hold their ground or even gain a fifth seat on the council. Selene Colburn is running unopposed for an open Ward 1 seat, while Progressive Councilor Max Tracy is hoping to hold onto his seat in Ward 2.
Ryan Emerson, a Democrat, stepped down as spokesman for the Vermont Democratic Party in early December and is now competing for Tracy's seat.
Wards 5 and 6 will be quiet — no one emerged to challenge Democratic Councilor Chip Mason in the former or Independent Councilor Karen Paul in the latter.
In Ward 3, Ron Ruloff, an Independent who has run in past years, is running against Progressive Councilor Rachel Siegel.
Wright will have the advantage of widespread name recognition in Ward 4, and he noted his past experience on the council as one of his main selling points. “Right now, there are six councilors with one term or less of experience," he said. "Adding my decade of experience to the council, I think, will be a really good thing.”
Wright also said he'd be concerned if Republicans were edged off the council completely.
"There's a real distinct possibility we could have, for the first time in memory, no Republicans on the council," he said.
Ode pointed out that she’s won two contentious Burlington School Board elections, and suggested her experience there makes her especially well suited to tackle residents’ growing concerns about their escalating property taxes.