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Burlington Election Predictions


Published February 27, 2009 at 10:16 a.m.

In Montpelier yesterday, while the day's news was all about the Democratic budget framework for dealing with the state's fiscal crisis, more people in the lunchroom wanted to talk about who might win the Queen City election.

I have a few thoughts on how the vote may go down Tuesday night, and I'll share them below. A disclaimer: I hate to call these predictions, because it would infer I have some form of arcane analytical tool at my disposal — internal polls, tea leaves, or the secret messages left by underpants gnomes. No such luck.

Consider what I'm about to offer you as guesses, pure and simple. Because when it comes down to it, voters tend to have minds of their own when they get into the ballot box. Go figure.

This week's "Fair Game" column looked at the historical possibility that the Democrats could get either working majority (seven Democrats) or an outright majority (at least eight seats) on the 14-member city council. If by luck they nab the mayor's office, too, it'll be quite a turnaround since the Progressive revolution of the early 80s.

I do believe the Dems will pick up one council seat, most likely in Ward 7with Eli-Lesser Goldsmith although former councilor Ellie Blais (a Democrat turned independent) could also win. Either way, the Democrats gain an advantage here. The closeness of this race could also force a run-off.

I think the Progs are safe in Ward 2 with newcomer Emma Mulvaney-Stanak vying for the seat left vacant by outgoing Prog Jane Knodell. Her Democratic challenger Nicole Pelletier got a late start and that will hurt her chances inthe end. The Progressives' get out the vote (GOTV) effort is strong in this ward and bodes well for Mulvaney-Stanak.

Marrisa Caldwell is also likely to hold on to outgoing councilor Tim Ashe's seat in Ward 3. As a school commissioner in the ward, she has a base of support already and is a known elected quantity. Her Democratic challenger, Democrat David Cain, is making astronger effort than their previous candidates and will make a strong showing. He's definitely a face to watch.

In Ward 4, Republican Eleanor Briggs Kenworthy is likely to hold onto this GOP seat being vacated by  Kurt Wright, who is running for mayor. Her Democratic challenger is Nancy Kaplan.

Democrats in Wards 5 & 6 — Joan Shannon and Mary Kehoe respectively — are facing challenges from the Green Party. Shannon is running for reelection in Ward 6, and Kehoe is vying for the seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Montroll, who is running for mayor. Both should win easily.

In Ward 1, incumbent Sharon Bushor is also facing opposition from the Green Party, but no one from a major party. She's well-liked and has a strong base of support. She'll win easily.

Now, if you look at this possible mix of councilors one other important aspect of the new council comes clear — there could be seven, possibly eight, women on the council. I'll start looking back at past councils, but I think this could easily be the most women on the council at one time.

Politically, this would be a council that leans Democratic (or has a Democratic majority), which could spell trouble for some department heads. As I heard from a few politicos yesterday, Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold, and other Kiss appointees, could find for some rough sledding come confirmation time, no matter who is mayor-elect come Wednesday morning.

But, it may all depend on who is the next mayor. So, let's cut to the chase.

Here are the candidates: Incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss, Republican Wright, Democrat Montroll, Independent Dan Smith, and Green James Simpson.

Here is one scenario of Tuesday night's outcome: