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January 24, 2014

Progressives Poised to Take Over Ward 1 Seat in Burlington City Council Race

600819_10150872857517031_1721988787_n(2)Progressive Selene Colburn (pictured at right) has all but secured a seat on the Burlington City Council. Her Democratic opponent for the open Ward 1 seat, Molly Loomis, has dropped out of the race.

Loomis’ exit likely clears the way for Progressives to at least retain their four seats on the 14-member council. They could claim a fifth, depending on what happens in Ward 2, where former Vermont Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Emerson is challenging Progressive Councilor Max Tracy.

Tracy is one of four Progressives currently serving on the council.  Democrats occupy seven seats, while independents hold two and Republicans one. Independent Councilor Sharon Bushor often votes alongside the Progressive caucus. 

Seven of the council seats — one from each ward — are up for grabs this year. Councilors are elected to two-year terms. Residents will make their selections during Town Meeting Day on March 4.

Loomis, who is the education director at the ECHO Center, had been seeking to replace Kevin Worden, one of two Democrats who decided in December that they wouldn't seek reelection.

The Democrats haven’t drummed up a replacement for Loomis. Party members have been on the hunt for another candidate, according to David Scherr, chair of the Burlington Democratic Party. But Monday is the filing deadline, which makes the chances of finding someone slim.

Scherr said that Loomis notified the party of her decision to withdraw several weeks ago and that her decision was driven by family obligations; she gave birth in December.  

"I had hoped to run, but other responsibilities — some planned and others new, some professional, some family — caught up with me and I won't be able to run for City Council at this time," Loomis told Seven Days. "I am very interested in serving my neighborhood and the city, but at this time I would not be able to devote the time and attention Ward 1 deserves."

Loomis’s departure makes the Progressives well-positioned to expand their reach in city politics. Colburn, a librarian at the University of Vermont, said she thinks that’s proof that the party is “re-energized.”

“There’s a whole new generation of people who are plugging in,” she said.  

But Colburn also emphasized that she hasn’t chalked this up as a victory just yet. She recalled an unexpectedly contentious battle for a Burlington School Board seat in Ward 1 last year, in which write-in candidate Kyle Dodson nearly unseated the 22-year incumbent, Keith Pillsbury.

“Anything can happen, so I’m not taking anything for granted,” Colburn said.

If elected, Colburn said she’ll emphasize “nitty gritty” issues, such as making intersections and sidewalks more pedestrian-friendly. She also wants to see more diversity among the people holding positions in city government. 

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