Burlington Dems Endorse Five Candidates for City Council Elections | Off Message

Burlington Dems Endorse Five Candidates for City Council Elections


Participants in the Burlington Democratic caucus - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Participants in the Burlington Democratic caucus
Burlington Democrats will run candidates in five of the eight city council races in March.

The party finalized its slate Sunday night during a virtual nominating caucus for Town Meeting elections, when all eight “ward” seats are up for grabs. The council has 12 total members.

The Democratic crop includes incumbent councilors Karen Paul (D-Ward 6) and Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4), along with newcomers Ben Traverse in Ward 5; Aleczander Stith in Ward 7; and Hannah King in Ward 8.

All of the candidates ran unopposed in the caucus, and most vowed to address housing affordability and enact public safety reforms if elected.

Mayor Miro Weinberger, a fellow Democrat, said the choice is clear for voters.

“If voters want racial justice and public safety,” he said at the beginning of the caucus, “if voters want competent, responsible government to deliver to the people in this community, they need to elect Democrats."

Ben Traverse, Ward 5 candidate - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Ben Traverse, Ward 5 candidate
Traverse seeks to fill the seat being vacated by longtime Councilor Chip Mason, who isn’t seeking reelection after 10 years on the council. In a December 9 announcement, Mason said the council has become increasingly polarized on issues, a division that Traverse said he doesn’t intend to deepen.

“I am running with the intent to work as a fair-minded consensus builder, listening to and respecting all points of view,” Traverse said, adding that he doesn’t have a political agenda. “My commitment to you is to view every decision through the lens of whether it is making life better and easier for my neighbors from all walks of life.”

An attorney with a local firm, Traverse currently chairs the city's Parks & Recreation Commission and serves on the Ward 5 Neighborhood Planning Assembly Steering Committee.

Traverse said he supports Weinberger’s proposal to allow housing to be built in parts of the South End where it’s currently prohibited and wants to see the city offer property tax relief to overburdened residents. He noted that had he first moved to Burlington today instead of nearly 10 years ago, he likely wouldn’t be able to afford a starter home in the city.
King also broached cost of living concerns, and pledged to advocate for rent stabilization and for policies that create long-term housing options for unhoused people. She also supports reforming the police department to no longer have officers respond to mental health calls — a policy goal shared by council Progressives and Democrats who frequently clash on other police-related issues.

Hannah King, Ward 8 candidate - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Hannah King, Ward 8 candidate
King, a student at the University of Vermont, is new to the race but not to politics. She recently graduated from Emerge Vermont, an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, and served as campaign manager for Adam Roof, a former Ward 8 councilor who now chairs the Burlington Democratic Committee.

Her potential opponent, incumbent Progressive Councilor Jane Stromberg, has yet to announce her reelection plans. Nor has Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7), Stith’s would-be opponent.

Stith nominated himself from the floor Sunday evening with a few brief remarks. A Ward 7 resident since 2019, Stith said he works as a plant manager for a manufacturing company, and said he wants to bring a “data driven” approach to council business.

“As an engineer, I love to understand and solve problems, especially through collaboration,” he said. “I understand that everyone is different and as such can bring differing opinions and valuable insight to a discussion.”
No one raised their hands to run for seats in Wards 1, 2 or 3, which are currently controlled by Progressive councilors, some of whom haven’t announced their reelection plans.

That includes Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2), who is undecided if he’ll run again after 10 years serving, and Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1). Councilor Joe Magee (P-Ward 3), who was elected in a special election in August, is seeking a new term.

The Progs will caucus on January 18, just six weeks before the Town Meeting election.

In a press release Sunday evening, Roof said council Progs are "incapable of competent leadership," and cited a Prog-led vote in June 2020 to reduce the police force through attrition as an example of what has "harmed our City." After the department's roster shrunk below the intended target, some Progressives voted in October to increase police numbers.

"While we may share many of the same values with our political cousins to the far left, we do not agree on how to make real progress," Roof said in the statement. "The candidates nominated today represent a hopeful future for our community and our efforts to recruit additional candidates will continue in the coming weeks.”

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