Burlington City Councilor Sharon Bushor lost her bid for the Progressive endorsement Wednesday night after a majority of voters selected Zoraya Hightower to represent Ward 1 in the March 2020 election.
Hightower clinched 42 votes to Bushor’s 17 in the caucus' only contested race. The loss was unprecedented for Bushor, an independent who had earned the Progs' endorsement every time she'd campaigned since first winning election to the city council in 1987.
“I'm disappointed,” Bushor said at Edmunds Elementary School. “It was clear to me from the people who came to the caucus that the support seemed to be in [Hightower's] favor.”
Bushor said the vote signals “a parting ... from the Progressive party, and one that’s sad for me.” She still plans to run for reelection as an independent and noted she welcomes the competition from Hightower, a relative newcomer who has called the Queen City home for four years.
Hightower, though, told caucus-goers before the vote that she'd only run if she earned the Prog endorsement. The voters came through for her, and after the results were announced, Hightower explained to reporters her thinking.
“If the Progressive party wasn't behind me, it didn't seem like I should run,” Hightower said, adding, “It's good to get this win and this kind of vote of confidence.”
Hightower said her platform on climate issues is stronger than Bushor’s, and she thinks that appealed to voters. Earlier in the evening, Hightower told the caucus that the city needs to “get serious” about alternate forms of transportation and thinks more electric buses could help. She also supports enforcing energy efficiency standards for rental housing.
Bushor said she’s in favor of boosting funding for public transportation and installing safer pedestrian crossings. She said she’s working with bike-walk advocates Local Motion to figure out how to provide free once-a-week bus rides for Burlingtonians.
Both candidates also discussed housing reforms. Bushor said rents will come down if the city and the University of Vermont increase housing stock. Hightower agreed, adding that UVM’s expensive room rates only drive students off-campus, which raises rents for everyone.
Other Progressive candidates easily won endorsements in their wards, all of which are up for grabs on Town Meeting Day in March 2020. Incumbent councilors Max Tracy and Brian Pine were endorsed for wards 2 and 3, respectively.
Newcomer Sarah Carpenter got the nod for Ward 4, a seat currently held by council president and the body's lone Republican, Kurt Wright. He plans to announce his campaign plans Thursday on "The Morning Drive," a radio show he cohosts on WVMT.
Carpenter will also seek a Democratic endorsement when that party caucuses early next year. Incumbent Councilor Ali Dieng, who was awarded the Progs' support, will do the same for Ward 7.
Nathan Lantieri won an endorsement for Ward 5, the home of incumbent Councilor Chip Mason, a Democrat. And Jane Stromberg was tapped to represent Ward 8. She’ll face Councilor Adam Roof, an independent. The Progs did not endorse a candidate for Ward 6.