Shannon Wins Democratic Nomination for Burlington Council Seat | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Shannon Wins Democratic Nomination for Burlington Council Seat

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Published December 16, 2022 at 9:00 a.m.


Joan Shannon (left) and Jason Van Driesche - LEFT PHOTO BY ALISON REDLICH; RIGHT PHOTO COURTESY OF CANDIDATE
  • Left photo by Alison Redlich; right photo courtesy of candidate
  • Joan Shannon (left) and Jason Van Driesche
Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon trounced three challengers on Thursday night to earn the Democratic nomination for the South District seat she currently holds.

Shannon won 76 percent of the vote in the Democratic caucus, taking home 651 of the 856 votes cast. Her primary competitor, Jason Van Driesche, got 188 votes, or 22 percent. FaRied Munarsyah tallied just 17 votes, and Lenora Travis didn't take home any during the caucus, which was mostly conducted virtually and with an electronic ballot.

Shannon has represented the city's South End for nearly 20 years. She'll try to keep the seat at the Town Meeting Day election in March.



"I just can't thank my constituents enough," she said. "The fact that Jason was working so hard — that also got people to pay attention to the race, to the issues, to have the discussion, so I think it's healthy for democracy."

Van Driesche said he ran a good campaign and spoke with a lot of voters.

"I think we really shook things up," he said. "But I think what's now clear is that a couple of months of canvasing — even given the enthusiasm that I found — wasn't enough to overcome Joan's 20-year head start."

The South District was the only contested seat at the caucus, which was for all four "district" seats and for Ward 8, a seat that's been vacant since Progressive Ali House resigned in October.

Each candidate had five minutes to make their pitch. Like Van Driesche, Shannon devoted much of her time to public safety, though the points she made didn't materially differ from her opponent's.

The candidates both expressed concern about the rise in certain crimes, including bike thefts and violent crime, and said they support rebuilding the city's police department.
They also acknowledged that Burlington needs more than just police officers to make the city safer, particularly for people of color. And they both spoke about addressing the deeper causes of crime, including by building affordable housing and bolstering mental health care.

"Drug use, drug-dealing, drug violence and gun violence all have a common root: They arise from deep societal problems, which are nationwide," Shannon said. "We need government to actively address them from all levels."

Said Van Driesche: "We must double our efforts to become a community where everyone, no matter what challenges they are facing, has a path to a hopeful future and a hand in getting there."

Prior to the caucus, Van Driesche had attempted to distinguish himself from Shannon by pledging to work with council Progressives, saying his opponent doesn't have a "positive relationship" with the caucus. His campaign also earned an endorsement from progressive Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George.

In her nomination speech, Shannon promised to "work with everyone in the community and on the council to find and advance our common vision."

She also noted her support for changing city zoning to accommodate more housing and for the city's climate initiatives.

"While we have a lot of work to do, we do have a path forward," she said.
Burlington Dems have been gaining some momentum ahead of Town Meeting Day elections. Just last week, Democrat Maea Brandt won a special East District election to give the party an edge over the Progressives on the council. Her seat was previously held by Progressive Jack Hanson, who resigned earlier this year.



The 1,000-plus registrants for Thursday's caucus was a record for Democrats in a nonmayoral election year. During the event, voters again endorsed Brandt for the East District seat, and they nominated incumbent Councilor Mark Barlow in the North District, though he plans to run as an independent. Hannah King, who lost to House in March, was nominated for Ward 8.

Newcomer Avery Muzikar, an assistant director for marketing strategies at the University of Vermont, will run in the Central District as an independent.

So far, only Muzikar has competition on Town Meeting Day. Melo Grant, a police commissioner and well-known DJ, announced her intention to seek the Prog nomination in the Central District earlier this month. Incumbent Councilor Perri Freeman isn't running for a third term.

Progressives will caucus in early January. Burlington Republicans will decide whether to hold a caucus when the party meets next week.

Watch the entire caucus below, courtesy of Town Meeting TV: