Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« What's The Deal With the Pumpkin On the Cover? | Main | Patrick Dougherty's Sculptures 'Inclined' to Come Down »

October 26, 2011

Democratic Mayoral Debates for Dummies

DSC00590If Burlington voters thought they had killed off instant runoff voting once and for all, think again.

It's alive and well in the Democratic primary for mayor — and boy does it show.

An upside to IRV is that it's supposed to allow candidates to focus less on a winner-take-all strategy and more on taking substantive policy stances that appeal to a wider range of people — people who may be endorsing one of their competitors.

The downside is that it makes for excruciatingly boooorrrriinnng debates, if you can even call them debates. They're more like live versions of a candidate's Facebook page — basic bio, interests, work history, a poke here and there.

As evidence, I offer readers the two packed Democratic forums in the past two weeks: None of the four Democratic candidates are looking to offend, annoy or otherwise draw political blood.

Why not? Because your enemy in the primary may become your friend on caucus day, November 13. Or, at least their supporters might.

To win the caucus, a candidate must actually get a majority (over 50 percent) of ballots cast. With four candidates that'll take some time, and at least two candidates are going to get knocked out before the final round.

To avoid upsetting each others' supporters, State Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), City Councilor Bram Kranichfeld (D-Ward 2), State Rep. Jason Lorber (D-Burlington) and housing developer and airport commissioner Miro Weinberger have each taken the "high road" in the forums.

DSC00625Any jabs, if you can call them that, have largely come from Weinberger (pictured right), directed at Ashe. They boil down to: Pssst, he's really a Progressive and therefore he must support incumbent Mayor Bob Kiss or at least be fickle when it comes to party loyalty. Ashe has said, repeatedly, that his lack of support and enthusiasm for Kiss is demonstrated by his run for mayor. Ashe, though, has also said his support for the Democratic winner — should it not be him — is offered with one caveat: the winner has to stick to a "high road" campaign.

The most grumbling I've heard from forum attendees is that the candidates haven't really tried to distinguish themselves from each other or offer any critique of each other's policies or stances.

To date, the candidates haven't offered up much in the way of substance to analyze. And what does come up is occasionally well-trodden ground. Take, for example, Weinberger's recent plan to "save Centennial Field."

As Seven Days readers know, this is a topic that Brian Pine at the city's Community and Economic Development Office has been working on for more than a year. In fact, most of Weinberger's ideas are ones that a community group identified as ways to improve the field and keep the Vermont Lake Monsters in Burlington. Next steps are raising money from private and public sources to make it happen.

AsheDitto Ashe's (pictured right) proposal for "saving Burlington Telecom." Ashe recently said the city should ask state regulators to relax mandates that require Burlington Telecom to complete its network build-out and that bar it from selling services outside the city limits. In fact, the Kiss administration floated that idea two years ago and, more recently, the city council agreed to ask state regulators to relax the requirement that it lay cable to every city address by a date certain.

In both cases, the "new ideas" are, in fact, ones that the current administration either came up with or promoted. But you'd never know that from the Kiss administration; they're letting the candidates pass off the mayor's ideas as their own without a peep.

Pulling punches in the primary won't do Democrats any favors if they want to toughen up their candidate for the general election. Just ask Gov. Peter Shumlin what a tough primary can do to prepare you for an even rougher general.

For example, when Lorber said last night that no one should "buy into the fear" that we need to put up city assets for a fire sale, he turned around and said the city should sell the Burlington International Airport as a way to raise cash. No candidate challenged him. When Republican Kurt Wright last week suggested selling off the Burlington Electric Department, most of the Dems poo-poohed it. Aside from Weinberger that is.

Who wins the November 13 caucus? In this four-way race, it's anyone's guess. The race remains pretty fluid.

DSC00611Weinberger has plenty of ideas and energy, but he hasn't yet warmed up to public speaking and therefore the crowds haven't completely warmed up to him. It may be different in smaller forums. He also comes across as if he's trying a bit too hard, which is normal for most first-time candidates. As a stand-up comedian and lawmaker, Lorber (pictured right) easily gets the crowd's attention and can hold it, but he hasn't closed the deal yet by offering enough substance and gravitas — despite the fact he's raised more than $20,000 and has hired on campaign staff.

At this point Kranichfeld seems to have the most momentum and has been a crowd favorite at both forums, followed by Ashe who offers more substantive answers to the questions than most — when he's not having to deflect or defend his previous allegiance to the Communist Socialist Hippie Progressive Party.

DSC00648When Kranichfeld (pictured right) says, as he often does in these forums, that this election is a time "to put behind us the partisan vitriol" and a time "for us to come together and for us to move forward" I get the sense that he means those coming together as Democrats, rather than as a city as a whole.

That's because Kranichfeld's support comes deep from within the old guard Democrats, those who have served on the front lines of the Progressive / Democrat battles of the past thirty years, including former Rep. Sandy Baird and Rep. Johannah Leddy Donovan, the mother of Kranichfeld's boss, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan.

Baird is one of the few Democrats who, like Kranichfeld, have turned back Progressive challengers in parts of the Old North End. In 2009, Baird supported Republican Kurt Wright in the general election over a Democrat because she thought he was the best chance at turning Kiss out of office.

This year, she's fully backing Kranichfeld.

For Ashe, he's in an uphill battle to stitch together Democrats who believe he'll be the best chance of keeping Wright from benefiting from a split on the left and winning the mayor's office. For Ashe, his goal — and his challenge — is to get enough Democrats, Progressives and independents to show up at the November 13 caucus.

Photos: Andy Bromage

Editor's Note: Sen. Tim Ashe, a candidate in the Burlington mayoral race, is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Routly is not assigning or editing stories, columns or blog posts about Burlington politics for the duration of the campaign. Andy Bromage now has that role.

Go Ashe!

Enter Mayor Wright...

With every debate they get closer to directly addressing this:

In fact, I believe it was Weinberger who made a more or less direct reference to it, pointing out that Ashe had all of the significant information on BT when he made that speech that he has now.

Of course, you won't read about that here, for obvious reasons.

Ashe's website chides Citi for not just accepting that their investment "failed." An investment fails when a company goes Chapter 11 or 7, not when they just decide not to pay their bills any more. I know that none of these guys can point out that BT could be shut down by the court any day, but yammering on about what a great economic engine it's going to be just makes one look delusional.

I was very dissapointed that a question I submitted was so severely edited by the moderator that no one understood what was being asked. The "moderator will edit the question" format resulted in such a bland exchange of opinions. Too bad he felt the need to keep it bland. What was he afraid of? His favorite candidate couldn't handle the pressure? Definately a bad format for conducting any meaningful debate.

I agree. These Dem love fests have been so boring. It may serve party unity but it does not serve the voters of Burlington. Too bad.

And is there any other place in the USA with as silly a political rivalry as Dems vs. Progs? So stupid and political.

"I know that none of these guys can point out that BT could be shut down by the court any day" - They can't/won't say it because it's not true. The Public Service Board (or the Department of Public Service) has said repeatedly, that if BT is shut down, it will be a months long process. TV and especially phone regulations require that customers be given plenty of notice before it's shut down.

The point is that if the court grants Citi's injunction and forces BT to stop using their equipment, the company is done. Not "all over but the shouting" done like today, but "who wants to buy some blue vans cheap" done. Whether their customers are given a grace period to switch over to something else is irrelevant, there will be a date certain after which bits will stop flowing through the lines.

I personally think that Wright will win the election. Bram simply won't have the support city wide for a win and I see Kurt doing very well in Wards 4, 7 and 5 and maybe having better expectations in Ward 6. In the end, just because you have a good caucus operation doesn't translate into a general election strategy. By the time the caucus is over, Bram will likely have no money and will be slow to get out of the gate while Wright will have a head start and be doing outreach.

I'm comfortable with Kurt Wright as Mayor. He's not crazy. He's very reasonable. He's mostly Pro-Choice, He support marriage equality, he's offering solutions to issues (albeit not popular ones) and the Dems wouldn't be attacking him if they didn't feel like he was a threat.

Kurt will win. And he'll likely have my vote if Miro doesn't make it.

However, everyone thought

The ACTUAL Democrats in this sad gang of four should be harping on fake-Dem Ashe's unconscionable statement about BT in his speech on Nov. 14, 2009 that, "There is no scandal, there is no controversy, and there is no poor health of BT." They should be showing the video to the audience at these "debates."

PS, not to mention the fact that he won't even commit to supporting the Democratic nominee whoever it may be. Only if they take the "high road"? That's code for: if I don't get the Dem nod, I'm bailing. If he doesn't get the Dem. nomination, he is going to hose you by either running as the Prog candidate for Mayor or by supporting the Prog candidate if it's not him.

Well, I'll have some fun with this . . .

There's maybe 35% of the electorate whose votes Kurt already has, and another 35% that will not vote for him under any circumstances.

That leaves 30% of the electorate in play. Kurt does well with this 30%, when running against Ashe. He does less well with this group against Kranichfeld. So I think Kurt wins against Ashe, and it's a toss up with Kranichfeld.


Ashe is right to suggest that he'll get the Prog votes who wouldn't want to vote for a businessman or lawyer Dem. But there might be just as many old establishment Dems who wouldn't vote for him, so it's a wash. I actually think Weinberger is the front-runner right now. He's run a great campaign, and he's probably the candidate who can distance himself the most from the BT mess (Wright included). But his Prog-baiting so far might come back to bite him. He will need P votes to win anything.

I'm very interested to see if an Independent like Karen Paul will enter the race. That will really shake things up.

I guess the only way we are going to get the North Ave. paving project completed as well as painted lines is if we give all of the candidates including the Mayor, Directors of public works,and parks and recs., as well as the police chief and fire chief, and director of arts and the library director, a GD paint brush.
The new mayor needs to fire all dept. heads on their first day and start fresh.
Sorry for the harshness but I have a broken spring on my car from traveling 5MPH down and up the avenue.

Oh Yes, the Mayor and director of Public works will not contact me after I left them a message to do so.
I demand the resignations of Kiss and Goodking.

Typo. I meant Goodkind.
I am frustrated, Kiss and Goodkind need to apologize for their typo's in leadership as well.

Steven Goodking? Hah! Excellent typo.

Still waiting for a response by the Mayor or Mr. Goodkind. Maybe they are out buying the paint together. Hey Steve, how does yellow look? It fits you well Bob, lets buy it.

While I almost always vote democrat or progressive, it's Kurt Wright's time. His ideas to get Burlington out of it's fiscal and managerial doldrums are a breath of fresh air. Thanks Bob for doing your best, but let's shake it up with Kurt.

Wright's definitly the front runner. Only the diehard libs are going to vote for someone else. The City is fucked thanks to Kiss and a slight move back towards center aint going to fix it.

By the way, it's actually Goodkinde. And the guy is clueless.

lifelong democrat, voted with/for progressives.
This time its Kurt. Lets give himn 3 years, see if he can lead us out of this morass. I hear progs and dems calling this guy dumb. No, dumb is what we got, proven, case closed. Bob Kiss worst mayor in Burlington's history. I never thought I'd vote for Kurt, but now its a done deal


I would like to point out that I have a few concerns about Tim Ashe. I have heard from multiple people that Ashe's receipt of the AFT endorsement was pretty much done behind close doors and I know for the fact that at least two of the Democratic candidates for Mayor did not receive questionnaires regarding the endorsement or wanting to know where the candidates stood on the issues. I feel like this was not transparent and people should know about it. AFT should answer those questions and why all Democrats were not given a fair chance to share their views and how they will help AFT members and the rest of organized labor.

Ashe is a prog and will follow Kisses footsteps. we need a fresh face not another prog. so let's got kick some ashe> also stay away for Kurt Wright he makes Bob Kiss look good.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684