Longtime Councilor Knodell Loses Progressive Nomination | Off Message

Longtime Councilor Knodell Loses Progressive Nomination


Left to right: Perri Freeman, Kienan Christianson, Jack Hanson and Mohamed Jafar - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Left to right: Perri Freeman, Kienan Christianson, Jack Hanson and Mohamed Jafar
Longtime Burlington city councilor and progressive stalwart Jane Knodell was rejected by her party Sunday as voters endorsed challenger Perri Freeman to represent the Central District on the ballot in the March election.

Freeman earned 85 votes to Knodell's 55 during the Progressive Party caucus at the Sustainability Academy in Burlington's Old North End. The result could mark the end of an era; Knodell, a former council president, has served 19 nonconsecutive years on the council. On Sunday, she said she didn't yet know whether she'd run as an independent.

More than 220 Progressive voters turned out to endorse candidates for the Town Meeting Day election. Members of some organizations, including the Democratic Socialists of America and Rights & Democracy, helped mobilize residents to support Freeman.

In recent years, Knodell has fallen out of favor with some in her party. She supported Don Sinex's bid to redevelop the Burlington Town Center mall, while Progressives also worried she aligned more closely with Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, on various other issues. In 2017, Knodell won reelection by just 81 votes after a spirited challenge by independent Genese Grill.
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Jane Knodell

A community organizer and a home care provider, Freeman ran Sunday on a platform of increasing the voice of working Burlingtonians on the city council. She criticized Knodell's votes to sell Burlington Telecom to Schurz Communications, disagreed with her endorsement of Republican Kurt Wright in his bid for the state legislature and disparaged the council for its lack of transparency in local decision-making.

Freeman described herself as a renter who works multiple jobs and would bring the "values of an organizer" to the council. Knodell, meanwhile, pitched herself as a City Hall insider with the skills to leverage municipal resources for grassroots initiatives.

Freeman will face Democrat Jared Carter in the March 5 Town Meeting Day election.

It was the only contested caucus of the evening. Voters endorsed Progs to run against incumbent Democrats in three other districts up for election this year.

Mohamed Jafar was unanimously selected to represent the party in the South District. He'll face 16-year incumbent Joan Shannon, a Democrat, and first-time Republican candidate Paco DeFrancis. Jafar, 22, said he hopes to serve as a council liaison for New American voters and improve access to early education and affordable housing.

Voters also unanimously endorsed Jack Hanson to challenge Richard Deane (D-East District) and attorney Kienan Christianson will run against Democrat Dave Hartnett in the North District. 

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