Joan Shannon Wins Democratic Nomination in Burlington Mayor's Race | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Joan Shannon Wins Democratic Nomination in Burlington Mayor's Race


Published December 10, 2023 at 5:17 p.m.

Joan Shannon at Sunday's Democratic caucus - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Joan Shannon at Sunday's Democratic caucus
Updated at 7:37 p.m.

Burlington Democrats chose City Councilor Joan Shannon (South District) as their candidate for mayor at a caucus on Sunday that had record-breaking, albeit virtual, attendance.

After a single voting round, Shannon earned 1,689 votes, or 50.7 percent of the vote, to secure the party’s nomination for the March 5 Town Meeting Day election. She needed more than 50 percent, or at least 1,667 votes, to win.

Shannon defeated both City Council President Karen Paul (Ward 6), who received 1,173 votes (35 percent), and political newcomer C D Mattison, who got 471 votes (14 percent).

Speaking to reporters after the vote was tallied Sunday, Shannon said she’s proud of running “a grassroots campaign with a whole lot of people.”

“It would not have happened without everybody really networking with their friends, talking about the campaign,” Shannon said of her victory. “The team that we have built going into this caucus is going to be powerful.”

Paul was not at Edmunds when the results were announced. Her campaign manager, Nick Charyk, later told Seven Days that she wouldn't be issuing a statement Sunday night.

“She has talked to Joan and congratulated her,” he said in a text message.

In a statement Sunday evening, Mattison thanked her supporters and urged the party to "invite everyone in." The antiestablishment candidate, Mattison said she heard from many voters who felt left out of the political process.

She didn’t expressly endorse Shannon, pledging to instead “listen to all sides, ask questions, do my research, and make a decision that aligns with my values."

Burlington voters have never elected a woman mayor, but they're on track to next year. Shannon will face Vermont Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P/D-Burlington), the Progressive nominee. There's a chance the candidate pool grows before then: Republicans are caucusing on December 19, and independents have until January 29 to get on the ballot.

Nearly 3,700 people registered for the Democratic caucus, which was conducted virtually for lack of a large enough venue; 3,333 people cast ballots, according to party chair Adam Roof. Voting was done electronically, including a handful of voters who cast ballots at Edmunds Middle School.
Shannon, 59, lives in the South End’s Lakeside neighborhood and works as a real estate agent. She’s served on the city council for two decades, including a stint as city council president. Shannon says she’s raised more than $50,000 from campaign supporters.

Like her opponents, Shannon’s campaign focused on public safety, specifically her votes on policing. In June 2020, Shannon was one of three councilors who voted against a Prog-led resolution to reduce the size of the police force by 30 percent through attrition. Paul voted in favor. More than a dozen officers subsequently left, and residents have connected the uptick in certain crimes to the exodus.
Both the Burlington Police Officers’ Association and the Burlington Firefighters Association endorsed Shannon’s campaign.

“Electing a mayor who has these endorsements will help us hire the first responders we all say we need,” Shannon told a small crowd at Edmunds on Sunday before the vote. “It will assure current and prospective officers that city leadership and the public support them performing their jobs.”

Shannon’s public safety platform calls for both “accountability and care.” She supports hiring additional security for city parks and parking garages, bolstering the city’s nonpolice emergency responses, and finding creative ways to recruit police. Shannon also says arresting people could help them access drug treatment.

Shannon has also pledged to build more affordable housing, including “supervised housing” for people in recovery. And she promises to work with state and federal leaders to bolster Vermont’s mental health care system.

“We will work together with state partners to provide the statewide social safety net that people deserve,” Shannon said before the vote, “and also work together to clean up graffiti, pick up litter and hold people accountable for illegal actions.”

Michele Asch, a former Burlington police commissioner who nominated Shannon, said Shannon has “a clear vision for our future” and listens to her constituents.

“She’s smart, compassionate, strong, and one of the hardest working individuals I know,” Asch said.

Sunday’s caucus opened with a speech from outgoing Mayor Miro Weinberger, who will step down after 12 years in office. Weinberger said Burlington Dems are “stronger than ever,” having recently won a functional majority on the city council.

“We are poised to expand that majority even further and to place a strong, experienced and talented Democratic woman at the helm in the mayor's office next March,” Weinberger said.

Soon after results were announced, Mulvaney-Stanak issued a statement saying she looks forward to highlighting her policy differences with Shannon, her former council colleague, on the campaign trail.

“In March, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether the strategies of the past decade will get us where we need to go, or whether we need a new vision for Burlington,” Mulvaney-Stanak said.
Democrats also nominated seven candidates for city council, including in two contested races.

In Ward 6, Becca Brown McKnight earned 375 votes to best Romeo von Hermann, who got 209 votes. That seat is being vacated by Paul.

And in Ward 7, Evan Litwin earned 288 votes to defeat Lee Morrigan, who had 133 votes. Morrigan won the Progressives’ nomination last week. The candidates are seeking the seat being vacated by Councilor Ali Dieng, an independent.

McKnight, a parent and marketing company CEO, said she’s concerned about the uptick in gun violence in Burlington and pledged to “seek out creative ways” to address the problem. She also spoke about the lack of mental health treatment in the state and the need to support police.

Ward 7 candidate Litwin, the communications director for a nonprofit focused on drug prevention, said the city must address open drug use and help people access treatment. He currently serves as vice-chair of the city’s Housing Board of Review.

In other uncontested races: Geoff Hand, an attorney and member of Burlington’s Development Review Board, is running in Ward 1. Malik Mines, who works for the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont, is running in Ward 3. Both candidates named addressing the housing shortage and other public safety matters as their campaign priorities.

 Incumbents Sarah Carpenter, Ben Traverse and Hannah King are running in Wards 4, 5 and 8, respectively.

Democrats didn't nominate a candidate in Ward 2.

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