Democratic-Progressive candidate Ali Dieng easily won a special election Tuesday to take the recently vacated Ward 7 seat on the Burlington City Council.
The first-time candidate won 610 votes, more than double the tally of his nearest competitor, Republican Vince Dober, who finished with 302 votes. Independents Ellie Blais and Chris Trombly earned 47 and 29 votes, respectively. Dieng will be the only nonwhite member of the council and the second New American to ever serve on the city's legislative body.
As the results were posted at the Robert Miller Community and Recreation Center minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m., the 35-year-old Dieng was all smiles. He said he wasn't surprised at the margin of victory. "We won handily, like we won handily in the caucuses," he said. "We worked hard."
Dieng had been knocking on doors across the ward since he announced in April. The effort paid off: 989 voters, nearly a quarter of those registered in the district, turned out. Throughout the day Tuesday, Dieng and a posse of volunteers stood outside the New North End voting venue, greeting residents despite intermittent rain showers.
The New North End has long been Burlington's most conservative district; neighboring Ward 4 is represented by Kurt Wright, the only Republican on the city council.
Voters were attracted by his vision for the area, Dieng said. He ran on a platform of building community cohesion and engagement, increased access to childcare, affordable housing, improved transportation, and engaging residents in the political process. Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) organization Our Revolution, which supports Progressive candidates, endorsed Dieng.
Voters "saw the excitement we brought to the campaign," Dieng said, as he hustled out to attend a celebratory party. "Republicans, Progressives, Democrats, young people, old people — people showed up."