Everyone thought the Burlington Democratic mayoral caucus would be close, but no one guessed it would end in a dead heat without a winner.
More than 1300 voters attended the marathon caucus at Memorial Auditorium on Sunday. After three rounds of voting, Miro Weinberger and Tim Ashe (pictured left to right) were tied at 540 votes apiece. Rather than force a fourth round of voting after many caucus-goers had gone home, party leaders opted to suspended the proceedings and schedule a run-off vote at a later date.
Jason Lorber was first out of the four-person race, followed by Bram Kranichfeld. With just Ashe and Weinberger left, many voters cast their final ballot and headed home, figuring a winner would be announced by the time they got there.
When the third round of a ballots were counted, Ashe held a one-vote lead (out of 1083 ballots cast); the results of the third round were Ashe 541 and Weinberger 540. But it wasn't enough. Announcing the results from the stage, Burlington Democratic Party chairman Steve Howard (pictured below) said the winner needed a majority of votes cast to win — in this case 542 — and neither candidate had met the threshold. Howard said there were two write-in votes that counted toward that majority threshold, meaning Ashe could not claim victory.
That touched off a debate about party bylaws that sent party leaders, the candidates and lawyers behind closed doors to hash out the particulars. There were audible groans in the auditorium. Campaign operatives scrambled to reach supporters by phone, email or Twitter to get them back to Memorial Auditorium to vote in what they thought would be a decisive, tie-breaking fourth ballot.
After some time, though, Howard and the candidates emerged to announce there would not be another vote on Sunday night. The candidates and party leaders agreed they would recount the votes from that round, and if there was still no winner, the party would adjourn the caucus and reassemble in a few weeks for the final vote.
After an hour-long recount that saw many of the few remaining people leave the auditorium, Howard emerged and announced the results: Weinberger and Ashe each had 540 votes, and five votes were considered "spoiled" because they were for a candidate already eliminated or a write-in candidate not eligible to win. A winning majority was 543, so neither candidate had won.
A Democratic unity rally scheduled for noon on Monday has been rescheduled and a new date for the caucus vote has not been set. Both Weinberger and Ashe said afterward they would use the time to regroup and campaign hard.
Here are the results for the first two rounds of voting:
Total - 1309
Needed to win - 655
Ashe - 458
Weinberger - 391
Kranichfeld - 354
Lorber - 106
(Lorber dropped out after the first round, even though party bylaws allowed him to remain on the ballot in the second round. He received a standing ovation).
Total - 1217
Needed to win - 609
Ashe - 471
Weinberger - 390
Total - 1083
Needed to win - 542
Ashe - 541
Weinberger - 540
Total - 1085
Needed to win - 543
Ashe - 540
Weinberger - 540
Spoiled - 5
(Tie. Caucus suspended. Final vote at future date).
(Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly, who is not assigning or editing stories or columns about Burlington politics for the duration of the campaign. Seven Days staffer Andy Bromage has that role.)