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February 27, 2009

Burlington Election Predictions

In Montpelier yesterday, while the day's news was all about the Democratic budget framework for dealing with the state's fiscal crisis, more people in the lunchroom wanted to talk about who might win the Queen City election.

I have a few thoughts on how the vote may go down Tuesday night, and I'll share them below. A disclaimer: I hate to call these predictions, because it would infer I have some form of arcane analytical tool at my disposal — internal polls, tea leaves, or the secret messages left by underpants gnomes. No such luck.

Consider what I'm about to offer you as guesses, pure and simple. Because when it comes down to it, voters tend to have minds of their own when they get into the ballot box. Go figure.

This week's "Fair Game" column looked at the historical possibility that the Democrats could get either working majority (seven Democrats) or an outright majority (at least eight seats) on the 14-member city council. If by luck they nab the mayor's office, too, it'll be quite a turnaround since the Progressive revolution of the early 80s.

I do believe the Dems will pick up one council seat, most likely in Ward 7 with Eli-Lesser Goldsmith although former councilor Ellie Blais (a Democrat turned independent) could also win. Either way, the Democrats gain an advantage here. The closeness of this race could also force a run-off.

I think the Progs are safe in Ward 2 with newcomer Emma Mulvaney-Stanak vying for the seat left vacant by outgoing Prog Jane Knodell. Her Democratic challenger Nicole Pelletier got a late start and that will hurt her chances in the end. The Progressives' get out the vote (GOTV) effort is strong in this ward and bodes well for Mulvaney-Stanak.

Marrisa Caldwell is also likely to hold on to outgoing councilor Tim Ashe's seat in Ward 3. As a school commissioner in the ward, she has a base of support already and is a known elected quantity. Her Democratic challenger, Democrat David Cain, is making a stronger effort than their previous candidates and will make a strong showing. He's definitely a face to watch.

In Ward 4, Republican Eleanor Briggs Kenworthy is likely to hold onto this GOP seat being vacated by  Kurt Wright, who is running for mayor. Her Democratic challenger is Nancy Kaplan.

Democrats in Wards 5 & 6 — Joan Shannon and Mary Kehoe respectively — are facing challenges from the Green Party. Shannon is running for reelection in Ward 6, and Kehoe is vying for the seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Montroll, who is running for mayor. Both should win easily.

In Ward 1, incumbent Sharon Bushor is also facing opposition from the Green Party, but no one from a major party. She's well-liked and has a strong base of support. She'll win easily.

Now, if you look at this possible mix of councilors one other important aspect of the new council comes clear — there could be seven, possibly eight, women on the council. I'll start looking back at past councils, but I think this could easily be the most women on the council at one time.

Politically, this would be a council that leans Democratic (or has a Democratic majority), which could spell trouble for some department heads. As I heard from a few politicos yesterday, Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold, and other Kiss appointees, could find for some rough sledding come confirmation time, no matter who is mayor-elect come Wednesday morning.

But, it may all depend on who is the next mayor. So, let's cut to the chase.

Here are the candidates: Incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss, Republican Wright, Democrat Montroll, Independent Dan Smith, and Green James Simpson.

Here is one scenario of Tuesday night's outcome:

1st round
Wright
Kiss
Montroll
Smith
Simpson

2nd Round
Kiss
Wright
Montroll
Smith

3rd Round
Kiss
Wright


And, here is one more possible scenario:

1st round
Wright
Montroll
Kiss
Smith
Simpson

2nd Round
Wright
Kiss
Montroll

3rd Round
Kiss
Wright

While Montroll has the electoral "mo" right now, I believe he was starting from behind Wright and almost even with Smith (or a bit ahead) several weeks ago. So, his surge actually chews into the voters Wright and Smith had been plucking away from him. In other words, Montroll's surge hurts Wright and Smith more than it directly helps Montroll.

I say that because I think he's winning back votes that were migrating from him earlier as folks see him as too much like Kiss. I don't think it's enough to propel him to a top slot, but I could be wrong.

Wright comes into Tuesday with the largest direct base of support of any candidate, which is why I think he will "win" the first round, but not receive the majority needed to keep the race from going to round two or three. I don't see enough Democrats or Progressives ranking him as their number-two choice to bolster his likely strong first round showing.

Therefore, IRV's second-place rankings will come into play this time around in a way that they didn't in 2003. Kiss was ahead in both the first and second rounds over Democrat Hinda Miller.

The wild cards here are how many first- and second-place votes Montroll can muster away from Wright and Smith, and how many first place votes Smith can get to make his second-place votes matter. He's run a strong campaign, and certainly has a political future, but party politics does matter in Burlington as it provides a direct voting base and GOTV efforts.

So, there you have it. Despite all of the claims of Kiss being lackluster, vision-less and quiet, those aren't the kinds of issues that oust incumbents. Just ask a Democrat if those labels have ever stuck to incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in their efforts to unseat him.

So, those are my thoughts going into the final weekend and they are subject to change and be challenged. Now, let's hear yours.

No comment on the prediction, but I'd love to know how many people's votes were influenced by the mayoral debates this season, since there were a bushel of them. Seems like this crazy little thing called IRV really is making our democracy more robust.

I think your prediction is WAY off. You really think that Smith is going to come in third or forth? I've talked to countless people who say that they are voting for Dan Smith as either their first or second choice so I do not believe your analysis holds much muster.

Personally, I think that this race is between Bob, Dan and Kurt. Andy has run a very lackluster campaign and does not have a lot of support from the Party. And I also take issue with the idea that Kurt is going to trump Smith in Ward 5 where Smith resides. When I drove through Ward 5, I saw A LOT of Smith signs.

Andy's voters are most likely not going to Bob. Most of Kurt's voters I think are going to vote for Dan. Half of Andy's supporters will likely break for Dan and most of Kurt's supporters will also break for Dan and I think that with that added punch, Dan will win on either the second or third round.

To count him out like that is dubious and incredibly lacking in political fact. Smith has run the best campaign and has knocked on the most doors (11,000, I believe) and has broad base support from across the spectrum.

Don't count him out. He's got a future. He's got a future as our Mayor.

The Prog newsletter predicts a Kiss victory? Color me shocked.

Wow, Shay, you're predictions are not that great. Anything could happen on Tuesday. We have absolutely no idea who is going to win. At least in '06, we knew that it would be either Hinda or Bob. Kevin Curley didn't have a prayer in his possession. Bob, Dan, Andy or Kurt could win this race. I am comfortable with all of them and only a few reservations of a few of them.

However, I must agree with "Jim." I believe you are underestimating Dan Smith's potential. People underestimated Bernie's potential, I believe, and we was elected...by 10 votes.

We don't know if the student vote is going to turn out and from what I've heard, Smith is courting the vote vigorously (as evidence by a young staff) and I think will have enough votes to be in the top 3.

Didn't someone say that the real race was to not be 4th? Because one that happens, we will know who has the BIG MO.

I'm voting for:

1) Smith
2) Wright
3) Kiss
4) Montroll
...not bothering with James Simpsons. That gentlemen scares me.

I believe that Dan Smith will likely walk away the victor on Tuesday evening. But it will be VERY close.

Dan Smith has a bright future... as a smiley face.

Hey your second scenario was totally right! Way to go!

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