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Wright Under the Wire


Published January 25, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.

With less than 10 minutes to spare, former Former Burlington City Councilor Kurt Wright walked into City Hall Monday with the 30 signatures needed to get his name on the ballot.

Wright, a Republican, will challenge incumbent Democrat Russ Ellis in Ward 4.

Wright has twice served on the council, first from 1995 to 1999 and then from 2005 to 2009. After each of those stints Wright ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor.

"In the end, I had a lot of people coming up to me and asking me to run," said Wright, who currently serves in the Vermont House.

A number of people, including fellow lawmakers and his wife, encouraged him not to run.

"People in Montpelier, especially, were telling me that there is not a lot of upside to running and a lot of risk — even if I win," said Wright.

Though elected to the council from Ward 4 four times before, he's not taking the race for granted. "It is not going to be an easy race. Russ is a popular guy."

Democrats plan to ensure Wright's prediction of a difficult race comes true.

“We’re going to give him a strong fight for that council seat,” said David Cain, chairman of the Burlington Democratic Party. “I think between the run for council and the IRV petition, that Kurt is simply engineering a run for mayor in 2012.”

Wright said he plans to run an issues-oriented campaign about the city's future, not just its past. That said, he did express an interest in amending the charter to allow for the council to ensure the mayor cannot appoint someone over the council's objection, and to allow for a voter recall of elected officials.

Wright would also like to revisit some of the downtown zoning issues that were contentious during the final tenure of his council presidency.

One other Republican — former Ward 4 Republican Councilor Kevin Curley — had claimed an interest in running for the seat. But, he never showed.

Wright said if Curley had shown up at City Hall with his petitions at the same time as Wright — Wright would have stepped aside.

Asked if Wright might run to reclaim his title as council president, Wright said: "I think it's spoken for right now."

Democrat Bill Keogh (Ward 5) is currently the city council president.

Wright said his vote in favor of overriding Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of same-sex marriage has not gone over well with some of his former constituents. "I had people say they wouldn't support me because they felt I let the governor down," said Wright.

With Wright's entrance into the council race that makes two old faces who are trying to make a council comeback.

As reported last night, Ward 3 Progressive Councilor Clarence Davis will not run for reelection. Running in his stead is former Ward 2 Progressive Councilor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak. Stanak vacated her Ward 2 seat in December when she moved out of Ward 2.

In other Burlington campaign news, Burlington's Progressives said they are running the largest slate of council candidates — five — in recent memory.

"It is encouraging to see this next generation of Progressives running for office," said John Franco, chairman of the city Progressives.

Here's how the rest of the council races shape up:

Democrats did not field a candidate in Ward 3, which means Mulvaney-Stanak will go unchallenged. Also unchallenged will be Independent Karen Paul in Ward 6.

In Ward 7, Republican Paul Decelles will be challenged by Democrat Greg Jenkins.

In Ward 5 Democrat Bill Keogh will square off against Progressive Abigail Russell.

In Ward 1, Democrat Ed Adrian will face a challenge from Progressive Miles Dougherty.

In Ward 2, Democrat David Berezniak is seeking reelection, and Democrat Bram Kranichfeld will seek Mulvaney-Stanak's vacated seat. Kranichfeld, 30, is chairman of the Burlington Electric Commission and a deputy state's attorney.

On the Progressive side, Jonathan Leavitt. a school social worker and community activist, is challenging Berezniak while Maxwell Tracy, a recent UVM grad and labor activist, will square off against Kranichfeld.