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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Burlington Council Elections: Hightower Will Run, Stromberg Won't

Posted By on Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 9:17 PM

Zoraya Hightower on Election Night 2020 - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Zoraya Hightower on Election Night 2020
Burlington City Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1) is running for reelection on Town Meeting Day while her colleague, Councilor Jane Stromberg (P-Ward 8), is not.

The Prog incumbents announced their plans Wednesday evening, when two other candidates jumped in the race: Ali House is running as a Progressive for Stromberg's seat and will face Democrat-endorsed Hannah King in Ward 8. Rob Gutman, a Democrat, will challenge Hightower in Ward 1.

With Hightower in and Stromberg out, just two of the four incumbent Progs up for reelection this March are seeking another term. After serving 10 years and nearly winning the mayorship last year, City Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2) is not running for reelection. Councilor Joe Magee (P-Ward 3), who was elected in a special August contest, is running and will join other Prog hopefuls at the party’s nominating caucus on Tuesday, January 18.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Former U.S. Attorney Nolan Exploring Senate Run as Republican

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2022 at 9:44 PM

Christina Nolan, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont - SCREENSHOT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Screenshot ©️ Seven Days
  • Christina Nolan, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont
Former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan is exploring a run for U.S. Senate.

She filed a statement of candidacy as a Republican with the Federal Elections Commission last Friday. In an email Monday, the former federal prosecutor acknowledged that she is "definitely exploring the possibility" of a run, but said she is "not yet ready to announce a formal decision or make a formal announcement."

VTDigger.org first reported her interest.

Her filing follows Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) decision to not seek reelection this year. Current U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has already launched a campaign to succeed Leahy.

Former president Donald Trump nominated Nolan as Vermont's top federal prosecutor in 2017, with support from Leahy and Republican Gov. Phil Scott. She stepped down last year when incoming President Joe Biden requested the resignations of Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys, as is typical during presidential transitions. Since then, Nolan has been a principal at Sheehey, Furlong & Behm law firm in Burlington, focusing on white collar and serious felony criminal defense.
While U.S. attorney, Nolan aggressively pursued gun and drug crimes. Her office also investigated Purdue Pharma for its role in fueling the opioid crisis, leading to a $8.3 billion criminal and civil settlement. With Nolan in charge, the office brought criminal charges against the masterminds of the Jay Peak EB-5 fraud scheme.

Any Republican seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Vermont faces long odds. Vermont has never elected a woman to Congress, though several women are frontrunners for the Democratic nomination to replace Welch in the U.S House. 

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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Burlington Council President Tracy Won't Run Again in March

Posted By on Thu, Jan 6, 2022 at 5:37 PM

City Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2) - FILE: COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • City Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2)
Updated at 8:10 p.m.

Burlington City Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2) said on Thursday that he will not run for reelection in March.

The current council’s longest serving Progressive, Tracy said that it's become too difficult to balance his demanding council role with his full-time work as a health care union organizer, particularly with contract negotiations looming at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

“Serving on the city council as council president, having to run for reelection while also working on the next contract in the spring, seems really untenable,” Tracy said. “I don't think I’d be able to do either role justice.”

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Sunday, December 19, 2021

Burlington Dems Endorse Five Candidates for City Council Elections

Posted By on Sun, Dec 19, 2021 at 10:37 PM

Participants in the Burlington Democratic caucus - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Participants in the Burlington Democratic caucus
Burlington Democrats will run candidates in five of the eight city council races in March.

The party finalized its slate Sunday night during a virtual nominating caucus for Town Meeting elections, when all eight “ward” seats are up for grabs. The council has 12 total members.

The Democratic crop includes incumbent councilors Karen Paul (D-Ward 6) and Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4), along with newcomers Ben Traverse in Ward 5; Aleczander Stith in Ward 7; and Hannah King in Ward 8.

All of the candidates ran unopposed in the caucus, and most vowed to address housing affordability and enact public safety reforms if elected.

Mayor Miro Weinberger, a fellow Democrat, said the choice is clear for voters.

“If voters want racial justice and public safety,” he said at the beginning of the caucus, “if voters want competent, responsible government to deliver to the people in this community, they need to elect Democrats."

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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Burlington City Councilor Chip Mason Won't Seek Reelection

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2021 at 4:28 PM

Councilor Chip Mason (D-Ward 5) - FILE: COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Councilor Chip Mason (D-Ward 5)
Updated at 5:36 p.m.

Longtime Burlington City Councilor Chip Mason (D-Ward 5) won't seek reelection in March, creating an open seat in the city's traditionally Democratic South End.

Mason, 52, has served on the city council for a decade, and before that, on the city's Retirement Board and Board of Tax Appeals. He has chaired the council's Ordinance Committee, which vets policy on issues ranging from short-term rentals to zoning rules, since first being elected in 2012. Mason is a managing partner at Burlington law firm Gravel & Shea, a role that sometimes requires him to recuse himself from council business.

"During my time on the Council I have been proud to be a consistent advocate for policies that make our city more affordable, more livable, and more accessible," Mason said in a press release Thursday announcing his decision. "I have enjoyed collaborating with Mayor [Miro] Weinberger and my colleagues on shared priorities."

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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Yes and No: Burlington Voters Reject Capital Spending Plan, Approve Energy Bond

Posted By on Tue, Dec 7, 2021 at 8:56 PM

A voter at the Miller Center on Tuesday - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • A voter at the Miller Center on Tuesday
Updated 9:33 p.m.

A pair of city spending plans got mixed results during a special Burlington election on Tuesday.

Voters shot down a $40 million capital bond, which would have fixed up sidewalks and replaced aging fire trucks, 57.3 percent to 42.7 percent; it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The plan would have raised taxes for the average homeowner.

But voters approved a $20 million revenue bond for the Burlington Electric Department, which will get the city closer to its goal of eliminating its use of fossil fuels by 2030. That item passed 70 percent to 30 percent with a simple majority.

The capital bond's failure marks the first time in Mayor Miro Weinberger's nine-plus years in office that voters have said "no" to a bond vote. They previously approved a $27.5 million bond in 2016, the first part of Weinberger's 10-year capital spending plan that upgraded most of the city’s bike path and fixed 14 miles of sidewalks.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Essex Junction Votes to Secede From the Town of Essex

Posted By on Tue, Nov 2, 2021 at 9:18 PM

  • Rob Donnelly
The Village of Essex Junction on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a plan to secede from the Town of Essex and establish a new, standalone city, signaling a potential end to this rocky 128-year-old relationship.

Village residents, who make up about half of Essex’s 22,000 population, approved their secession plan 3,070 to 411.

The vote follows decades of acrimony between residents of the distinct-but-overlapping municipalities and could result in the breakup of Vermont’s second-largest town. State legislators and the governor must sign off on Essex Junction's proposed city charter next year before the split is finalized.

Taxes were top of mind for many heading to the polls on Tuesday. Essex Junction residents pay taxes into both the town and village, while non-village residents pay taxes only in the town.

A plan proposed earlier this year would have merged the two municipalities into one while spreading the tax impact over time instead of all at once. But voters shot it down twice — due in large part to immense opposition from non-village residents, whose taxes would have increased.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Progressive Joe Magee Wins Burlington Council Seat in Special Election

Posted By on Tue, Aug 17, 2021 at 7:41 PM

  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Joe Magee
Updated at 7:55 p.m.

Ward 3 residents in Burlington have new representation in Joe Magee, the Progressive candidate who took Tuesday night's special election with 47.1 percent of the vote.

Magee won 475 votes to independent Owen Milne's 397, or 39.4 percent. Republican Christopher-Aaron Felker finished a distant third with 136 votes, or 13.5 percent. Just over 22 percent of the 4,546 registered Ward 3 voters cast ballots, according to unofficial city results.

"I'm feeling really good," Magee said shortly after his win. "I know we ran a strong campaign. I think the results are a testament to the fact that we were out there from day one, talking about issues facing working families."

Magee's victory maintains the Progs' six-person numerical plurality on the 12-person council. He replaces former Progressive councilor Brian Pine, who left in late May to join Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger's administration. Progressives have controlled Ward 3 — which comprises a section of the city's Old North End, downtown and waterfront — for decades.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Burlington GOP Council Candidate's Transphobic Tweets Resurface

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2021 at 10:17 PM

Christopher Aaron-Felker - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Christopher Aaron-Felker
At his campaign launch on Tuesday, Republican Christopher-Aaron Felker promised to rebuild city sidewalks, hire more police officers and find ways to reduce housing costs if he’s elected to the Burlington City Council in August.

The 40 people who gathered in Battery Park cheered when he vowed to help the city  “unite as a community” and “build a better Burlington together.”

But some city residents say Felker hasn’t been practicing what he’s now preaching. Shortly after Seven Days published a story about Felker’s candidacy last week, Twitter-users called him out for his transphobic social media posts — some of which were directed at the very people he now wants to represent.

He has since deleted his Twitter account, @UrOrwellianLife, and his Facebook profile, but Seven Days used the Internet Archive, a nonprofit that catalogues old versions of websites, to dig up Felker’s old tweets.

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Joe Magee Wins Progressive Nomination for Ward 3 Special Election

Posted By on Sat, Jun 19, 2021 at 8:58 PM

  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Joe Magee
Joe Magee clinched the Vermont Progressive Party's nomination Saturday evening for the upcoming Ward 3 city council election with just one vote more than his closest competitor.

A total of 169 Progs cast ballots in the ranked-choice election, which lets voters rank candidates in order of preference. The lowest vote-getter is eliminated in each round until one candidate surpasses 50 percent.

Magee squeaked out 50.3 percent, or 75 votes, after four rounds, narrowly defeating Julie Macuga, who had 49.7 percent of votes, or 74 total, according to the party's official results.

"I'm very grateful to the candidates that ran in the caucus, and I'm looking forward to building a strong campaign for working families in Ward 3," Magee said. "It's just really great that we had such an impressive turnout in the caucus, and it speaks to the strength of the party in Ward 3 and definitely a strong start going into the special election."

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