Progressive Joe Magee Wins Burlington Council Seat in Special Election | Off Message

Progressive Joe Magee Wins Burlington Council Seat in Special Election


  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Joe Magee
Updated at 7:55 p.m.

Ward 3 residents in Burlington have new representation in Joe Magee, the Progressive candidate who took Tuesday night's special election with 47.1 percent of the vote.

Magee won 475 votes to independent Owen Milne's 397, or 39.4 percent. Republican Christopher-Aaron Felker finished a distant third with 136 votes, or 13.5 percent. Just over 22 percent of the 4,546 registered Ward 3 voters cast ballots, according to unofficial city results.

"I'm feeling really good," Magee said shortly after his win. "I know we ran a strong campaign. I think the results are a testament to the fact that we were out there from day one, talking about issues facing working families."

Magee's victory maintains the Progs' six-person numerical plurality on the 12-person council. He replaces former Progressive councilor Brian Pine, who left in late May to join Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger's administration. Progressives have controlled Ward 3 — which comprises a section of the city's Old North End, downtown and waterfront — for decades.

Magee grew up in Vermont's Mad River Valley and has lived in Burlington's Old North End for the last eight years. Magee previously worked on both of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaigns and was Carina Driscoll's deputy campaign manager in her 2018 bid for mayor. He identifies as queer and uses he/they pronouns.

A self-described socialist, Magee said he ran to support working families in Burlington. He favors policies to increase protection for renters and houseless people, and wants to increase representation by Black, Indigenous and people of color in city government. Magee also supports a proposal currently in front of the council to adopt consolidated waste pickup, which would expand the city's hauling services from only recycling to include garbage and food scraps.
During the campaign, Milne supported the so-called "hybrid" model, which would franchise trash and food scraps to private haulers, who would bid for different city districts. Felker opposed the municipal model but didn't comment on the hybrid system.

The three candidates also differed in their approaches to police reform. Magee supports the Progressive-led council's decision last summer to reduce the police force through attrition, a vote that a subset of councilors attempted, unsuccessfully, to reverse at last week's meeting.

Milne said he opposed "defunding" the department, and would have voted to temporarily increase the staffing cap while the city awaits an analysis of police services. Felker based much of his campaign on public safety, and vociferously urged councilors last week to reverse course and hire more cops.
In a Facebook post after the council vote, Magee wrote that his vision for public safety includes "increasing access to mental health services, no-barrier housing, and safe-use sites" and funding a program similar to the CAHOOTS model used in Oregon, which dispatches medics and crisis workers to certain calls instead of armed police.

He also supports a grassroots effort to revive a community control board in Burlington. The citizen-led board would have the power to investigate police misconduct, and to discipline officers, including the chief of police. Weinberger vetoed the measure late last year.

Magee out-raised and out-spent both his competitors, pulling in just under $7,478 during the abbreviated campaign. Most of his donors gave $100 or less. He spent about $4,700 as of the August 13 filing deadline with the Vermont Secretary of State.

Democrat-endorsed Milne raised $5,383 and spent just under $4,490. Felker, the Burlington GOP's first candidate in two election cycles, raised $3,597 and spent about $3,477.

Felker was a controversial candidate in the election. Both Magee and Milne called for him to drop out after his previous transphobic tweets resurfaced.

Tuesday evening, Magee thanked his opponents for "running a positive, issues-focused campaign" and his supporters who campaigned on his behalf.

"I look forward to getting to work," he said.

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