BURLINGTON, Vt. – The Burlington Progressive Party gathered hundreds of voters Tuesday evening for its annual caucus, which was held remotely via conference call.
Progressive voters weighed in on which candidate they’d like the party to nominate for mayor, as well as other elected offices. including two city council seats.
Roughly 1400 voters registered for the caucus. Burlington Progressive Party Chair Josh Wronski said the strong turnout is a sign of increased interest in local elections, and credit is due in part to easier access through remote meetings.
“In some ways, I think the barrier has been lowered for participation, because you think normally for an in person meeting, you’re getting together at 6:30 pm on a Sunday night, people have kids, people have jobs, it’s tough,” Wronski said. “Now, we’re making it even easier so that’s been maybe the positive and unintended consequence of the pandemic.”
Burlington Democrats will hold their caucus on December 6, and it will also be conducted remotely. Mayor Miro Weinberger is seeking a fourth term as Burlington’s mayor.
Burlington’s two Progressive mayoral candidates, Brian Pine and Max Tracy, are both longtime city councilors. Each had plenty of support from prominent city Progressives at Tuesday night’s caucus.
Zoraya Hightower, a Progressive member of the Burlington City Council, touted Tracy’s leadership as city council president.
“Max Tracy has shown me in so many ways what Progressive leadership is and what it can be like,” Hightower said. “Max invites feedback from folks because he genuinely cares about people’s perspective, and then he uses what he hears to make decisions that align with his values.”
Stephanie Seguino, a Professor of Economics at the University of Vermont, said Pine would be effective in combatting economic inequity as mayor, while also improving the city’s financial picture as a whole.
“Brian has the skills, experience and emotional intelligence to confront these issues and to rebuild this city in a way that repairs the social fabric and the economy,” Seguino said. “He is a bridge builder and a problem solver. Even when Brian disagrees with someone, he listens with heart.”
The results of the caucus will be available on Thursday, but both candidates spoke to voters about their priorities should they be elected as Burlington’s 43rd Mayor.
Tracy said he’s been a consistent advocate for the Progressive movement in city council, and made a case for higher office based on that experience.
“At times I was the lone voice or one of a small handful fighting against the neo-liberal policies of the Weinberger administration,” Tracy said. “Everything from the F-35s to the mall project, to the Downtown Improvement District, to most recently fighting to prevent seasonal city employees from having their jobs disappear.”
Pine, who was first elected to the Burlington City Council in the 1990s, discussed his accomplishments while working as Assistant Director in the city’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO).
“I worked in CEDO for 18 years to rebuild the local economy and create and preserve affordable housing throughout this city,” Pine said. “I helped lead the North Street Revitalization Project, which transformed that street into what it is today – a thriving, ethnically, economically and culturally diverse neighborhood and commercial corridor.”
There’s are also four city council seats that will be decided on Town Meeting Day. Two of them are currently held by Democratic councilors, while the other two are occupied by Progressives.