A day before Burlington voters pick their next mayor, the candidates vying to take City Hall spent Monday scouring the city for a few more votes in a final frenzy of campaigning.
Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright and his Democratic opponent, Miro Weinberger, both spent the afternoon knocking on doors and waving signs in the New North End, traditionally a treasure trove of votes in Burlington elections.
As if on cue, a middle-aged man driving a blue Ford Explorer pulled up to Weinberger and, pointing to his house a few doors down the street, said the candidate should feel free to put up a sign or two.
“We’re campaigning all over the city, but it feels very productive to be up here,” Weinberger said after the man drove away. “We’re making gains. People are open-minded about the race up here, even though it’s Kurt’s backyard.”
Wright, who hails from the New North End, spent the mid-afternoon hours knocking on condominium doors on Eastman Farm Road and making last-minute phone calls to undecided voters from his cellphone.
“Everybody seems to have a different prediction,” Wright said, acknowledging that the most expensive mayoral race in Burlington’s history was likely to come down to the wire. “I feel really good based on how many people have told me they’re voting for me for the first time ever and have never voted for a Republican before. I feel good about the level of support I’ve gotten from different parties.”
Independent mayoral candidate Wanda Hines did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
If voter registration figures and absentee ballot requests serve as any indication, Tuesday’s election could see an above-average voter turnout. According to the city’s assistant chief administrative officer, Scott Schrader, some 700 Burlington residents have registered to vote in the past month.
“I did end up having to order more ballots because I was nervous, and to some degree I still am,” Schrader said.
The two wards of the New North End — 4 and 7 — had the most completed absentee ballots by Monday afternoon: a combined 863. Early voting totals were also high in the more Democratic southern wards — 5 and 6 — with 336 and 333 absentee ballots returned, respectively.
Weinberger’s Battery Street headquarters, which he shares with the Vermont Democratic Party, was also buzzing Monday. Thirteen-year-old volunteer Austin Mesick stapled red “Endorsed by Bernie Sanders” signs to the bottoms of a slew of Weinberger yard signs, while field director Jaafar Rizvi made last-minute adjustments to the campaign’s get-out-the-vote plan.
Over the weekend, according to Kanarick, some 100 Weinberger volunteers made phone calls, held signs and took part in an election-day training session. The campaign made more than 11,000 phone calls Saturday and Sunday, Kanarick said.
The two campaigns converged late Monday afternoon at the busy intersection of Route 127 and North Avenue, waving signs and soliciting honks from commuters. The sidewalks abutting and across the street from North Avenue Alliance Church were lined with 30 volunteers, city council candidates and Wright and Weinberger themselves, all competing to out-wave and out-hustle the other — and all hoping for victory Tuesday night.
The action starts on the Seven Days home page at 5 p.m. and will continue until we run out of results to digest. We’ll be joined by reporters from VTDigger.com, the Bennington Banner, the St. Albans Messenger, the Addison Independent, the Brattleboro Reformer and others. Join us!