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February 21, 2012

Wright for Progs? Brennan Backs Republican Mayoral Candidate

WrightWithout a candidate of their own to succeed outgoing Mayor Bob Kiss, Burlington Progressives have been mum about whom they might support in next month’s mayor’s race.

But tomorrow, for the first time, a Progressive officeholder will formally endorse one of the candidates. And it might not be who you’d expect.

Progressive City Councilor Vince Brennan, who represents Ward 3, plans to throw his support behind Republican candidate Kurt Wright, with whom he serves on the council.

“The city is in need of a leader that will be able to guide us through the back side of these tough economic times — a leader that is seasoned in the atmosphere of Burlington politics,” Brennan said in a statement to Seven Days. “That is why I will be endorsing Kurt Wright for mayor.”

Brennan’s endorsement may carry some significance, in that it bolsters Wright’s central campaign argument: that he is the one candidate able to rise above party politics and unite the city. It also poses problems for Democratic candidate Miro Weinberger, who has been working to consolidate the support of Progressive voters since his narrow caucus victory over Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P), a darling of Burlington’s Prog crowd.

The Progressive Party has not formally endorsed any of the contenders, though it has continued to dangle the possibility ever since deciding not to field a candidate of its own. Party leaders met separately with Wright, Weinberger and independent candidate Wanda Hines a week ago in order to grill them on Progressive priorities. After the meeting, the party issued a statement saying, “In the coming days and weeks our steering committee will discuss the possibility of an endorsement,” adding that the party would primarily focus on electing its own candidates to the city council.

Wright’s campaign was enthusiastic about Brennan’s nod.

“I think it sends the message that Kurt is the only person in the race that has shown he can bring all parties together. I know we’re lacking in terms of big-name endorsements — we don’t have Washington, D.C.-type endorsements — but we certainly have Burlingtonian endorsements.”

Brennan’s fellow Progressive city councilor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (Ward 3) said Tuesday she will not endorse, explaining, “I can’t really say I’m very enthusiastic about any of the candidates in the race.”

“They’re all great people, but in terms of the type of leader I’d be enthusiastic about, I don’t see any of them being the type of leader Burlington needs right now.”

One notable, heavy-hitting Burlington politician has thus far kept quiet about whom he might support: Sen. Bernie Sanders, a former Burlington mayor himself. Sanders last week told Seven Days’ Andy Bromage, “If I do endorse, I’ll be more specific. It’s a little bit early. It’s not so early! If I make an endorsement, it will be before the election, not after the election.”

Clock’s ticking, Bernie!

In case you missed them, which you probably did, here’s a roundup of recent endorsements and nonendorsements since we last covered the mayoral endorsement-a-thon:

  • Democratic Congressman Peter Welch joined Weinberger for a press conference today during which the candidate outlined an energy-efficiency plan. Welch said about Weinberger, “Not only does he have the experience and creativity to outline a clear agenda for Burlington's future, he's got the skills to turn these ideas into real progress.”
  • Independent City Councilor Sharon Bushor (Ward 1) threw her support behind Wright February 15, saying, "Kurt Wright is my choice for mayor. I have worked with Kurt on the city council for many years and, although we don't always agree on all the issues, he has my respect and confidence."
  • After meeting with each of the candidates, the Burlington Firefighters Association Local 3044 announced February 10 that it had opted not to endorse, saying, “After great discussion, the Union's membership voted not to endorse a candidate in this year's mayors race. The BFFA membership didn’t believe that there was one single candidate that was strong on our issues.” Three years ago, the union backed Wright.
  • Former Democratic state representative Sandy Baird endorsed Wright February 9, saying, “As the campaign has unfolded, it’s become clear to me that Kurt Wright is the right person to lead Burlington forward. His leadership skills and his experience with bringing people together are just what the city needs at this critical time.

(Double disclosure: I used to work for Congressman Welch; Seven Days publisher and co-editor Paula Routly is the domestic partner of Tim Ashe.)

Illustration of Kurt Wright by Marc Nadel

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