Longtime Burlington activist Wanda Hines made it official this morning: She's running for mayor as an independent.
The formal announcement will come at a press conference scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow, January 6, at North End Studios, but she confirmed her plans by phone with Seven Days this morning.
"I'm jumping in," she said. "I just see it as a good opportunity. I'm running into people who say they never vote. They feel frustrated."
We received Hines' email this morning as her two soon-to-be rivals — Republican Kurt Wright and Democrat Miro Weinberger — were squaring off in their first debate before a packed auditorium at Champlain College. Attached to the email was this campaign sign (note the fine print - "Paid For By the Committee to Elect Wanda Hines") and her entire biography and resume. (Leaving little doubt about her intentions).
Hines was director of the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf for 12 years, and now works for CEDO, the city's economic development office.
"I'm looking to motivate people to get out and vote, participate in their lives, get out and do it," she said. "Right now I feel a lot of people are going to sit this election out and that's what I'm seeing and that can't happen. This is an important election. People are telling me this is where I should be. I'm going to do it."
She added, "This is where I'm supposed to be. I'm a product of my community. And why not?"
Asked about Hines' announcement following the debate, Weinberger said he welcomes her to the race.
"She's an important part of this community, has been a leader for a long time and I think she has important perspectives to articulate," Weinberger said.
Is Weinberger worried about Hines siphoning off supporters — particularly among working-class voters and Old North Enders?
"No mayor has been elected — with one exception, Mayor Brownell — without that coalition of Progressive voters, [and] a large number of those are in the Old North End. I think it's no secret that that's not the part of the city I live in and I have work to do in that part of the city," Weinberger said. "But I'm doing it, I have been since the start and I'm going to continue to focus on building those bridges in the weeks ahead."