Mayor Miro Weinberger at the ECHO Center on Tuesday
Updated at 11:01 p.m.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger won his fourth term by just 129 votes on Tuesday night.
Weinberger, a Democrat, earned 43 percent of votes, just barely defeating Progressive challenger and City Council President Max Tracy, who received 42 percent of votes. Councilor Ali Dieng, an independent, came in third with 13 percent of votes.
The mayor tallied 6,189 votes compared to Tracy’s 6,060 and Dieng’s 1,830, according to unofficial results from the city.
The four other independents in the race — Haik Bedrosian, Will Emmons, Kevin McGrath and Patrick White — earned a combined 245 votes, or about 2 percent of the total.
Weinberger had campaigned on a platform of “proven leadership,” telling voters that the middle of a pandemic was no time to make a change at the top. The mayor had also touted his record of financial management, including how he rescued the city’s failing credit rating after the Burlington Telecom fiasco. During the campaign, Weinberger supporters said the city needs his fiscal acumen to recover from the pandemic.
In a victory speech Tuesday night, Weinberger said fighting the virus and leading the city’s economic recovery are his top priorities. He also pledged to continue addressing both racial justice and the climate crisis.
“My promise to you, Burlingtonians, is that our city team will take on the challenges ahead using the same kind of hard work, innovation, collaboration and persistence that has made Burlington one of the safest cities in America,” he said in a speech at the ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. “The work ahead is serious. We must, and we will succeed.”
Weinberger ran his most robust campaign yet, beating his fundraising record by raking in $132,673 as of February 26. He maintained a two-to-one fundraising lead over Tracy throughout the race, though Tracy had more individual donors.
Still, Weinberger’s victory with just 43 percent of the vote was his worst showing of his four campaigns. He won with 48 percent in 2018, 68 percent in 2015 and 58 percent in 2012. A candidate must earn at least 40 percent of the vote to win.
Tuesday's results — with 57 percent of voters choosing another candidate for mayor — show “we have hard work to do to forge a new consensus” on divisive issues such as policing, racial justice and housing policy, Weinberger said.
The incumbent mayor has preferred a more incremental approach to police reform than Tracy. He vetoed a Progressive proposal to create an independent oversight board to investigate police for misconduct, preferring to give more power to the existing police commission. He’s also been a vocal critic of the Prog-backed decision to reduce the police force last June, saying the vote has put the city’s overnight police coverage in jeopardy.
“I'm looking forward to getting back, hopefully soon, to that big, U-shaped table in Contois where we put behind contested elections, and we roll up our sleeves, and we work hard and find ways to keep making progress even if there is a difference of opinion,” Weinberger said.
The mayor said he’d already had “very gracious and thoughtful phone calls” with both Tracy and Dieng about how to move forward.
“I certainly am very committed to collaboration and seeking to find consensus,” Weinberger said.
At a virtual Progressive party Tuesday night, Tracy congratulated Weinberger and said he’s confident that the mayor will work with the council “to help us move closer to a Burlington that works for all of us.”
Tracy, who will remain on the city council, also promised to continue fighting for policies that he promoted on the campaign trail, including police accountability, affordable housing and racial justice. He urged his supporters to continue organizing for “transformative change.”
Max Tracy (right) learns he lost the election
“Electoral losses happen … but we can’t let that deter us from our focus to transform our city to be a more socially just, a more racially just, a more economically just city. We have so much work to do,” Tracy said. “I certainly look forward to continuing to work with all of you as your city council president to build the future that we deserve here in Burlington. Onward, together.”
Fellow Councilor Jack Hanson (P-East District), who won reelection Tuesday unopposed, agreed, saying Tracy’s campaign only strengthened the Progressive movement that “didn’t disappear after tonight.”
“It continues to grow and build,” he said. “I'm really looking forward to [seeing] what we can accomplish together next.”
Independent candidate Mark Barlow defeated Democrat/Progressive candidate Kienan Christianson by 156 votes in the North District. Barlow, a former school commissioner, received 2,306 votes to Christianson's 2,150 in the race for the only open council seat. He replaces outgoing Councilor Franklin Paulino, a Democrat, who didn't run for reelection.
Barlow, a Weinberger supporter, said he wants to defuse the hyper-partisan dynamic on the council. He said he won’t caucus with either party on the 12-member governing body. Christianson had also shared concerns about the partisan divide and pledged to work across the aisle. He also ran unsuccessfully for the North District seat in 2019.
In the Central District, Progressive Councilor Perri Freeman easily defeated independent challengers Tiki Archambeau and Peggy Luhrs. Freeman received 1,935 votes (59 percent) to Archambeau’s 1,131 (35 percent) and Luhrs’ 194 (6 percent).
In the South District, Democratic Councilor Joan Shannon defended her seat from newcomer Grace Ahmed, an independent with Progressive support. Shannon earned 2,529 votes (67 percent) to Ahmed’s 1,272 (33 percent).
At 38 percent, voter turnout was higher than the past three mayoral contests — likely because the city mailed ballots to all active, registered voters during the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 14,571 voters cast ballots compared to 12,064 in 2018. Turnout for last year’s town meeting was exceptionally high — 85 percent — due to the presidential primary.