BURLINGTON — A group of New North End residents are putting together a campaign to write in City Council President Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4, for re-election to his city council seat.
The news comes as another candidate, Ericka Bundy Redic, announced that she is running for the seat as an independent. Redic briefly ran for the North District seat last year before dropping out and endorsing Democrat Franklin Paulino, who won the election.
Sarah Carpenter, former executive director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, has received the endorsements of the Progressive and Democratic parties and is planning on caucusing with the Democrats.
Wright announced in December that he would not seek re-election, citing his job as a co-host of a morning talk show on WVMT and concerns about federal equal time rules.
Alex Farrell, a Ward 4 resident who ran unsuccessfully for a Chittenden County Senate seat in 2018 as a Republican, is leading the write-in effort with former school board member Mark Barlow.
“Kurt’s party association has never really been what guided his decision-making, especially in the last decade,” Farrell said. “He’s always been sort of a steady, calm voice to keep the council on the level when things started to go array.”
Farrell said the campaign will focus on distributing literature that encourages district residents to write in Wright. He said group members will be outside the polling place on Election Day, March 3, encouraging voters to support Wright.
Farrell said he believes Wright’s long experience and name recognition give him a shot, even though Wright is not campaigning himself.
“I think there’s a reasonable shot, of course; it’s more of a long shot as write-in, but he has a better chance than the typical write-in candidate,” Farrell said.
VTDigger is underwritten by:
Wright has served on the council for 16 non-consecutive years and ran for mayor three times. He was the city’s only Republican legislator in Montpelier before losing his House seat to Democrat Bob Hooper in 2018.
Wright said that he would “absolutely” serve if elected, but that he will not participate in the write-in campaign or candidate forums, or campaign door-to-door. He said that he believes the campaign had a chance to succeed, though it is a long shot.
“I think that there is at least a chance in this case, just because I’m a current city councilor in this ward, City Council president and I’ve been around a long time, so I have some name recognition,” he said. “I think that adds some level of at least long-shot possibility to it.”
Wright said he has talked to WVMT leadership about the efforts and the FCC equal time regulations, but since he is not a candidate and not working with the campaign, they are not concerned.
“We think we’re safe, but we’re going to be very careful to not use the show to push the write-in Wright campaign,” he said. “We’re not going to use that as a platform in any way or be talking about it.”
Carpenter said that she was surprised to hear about the write-in-Wright campaign.
“I’m surprised this approach is being taken,” she said. “It’s clearly awkward to have a non-candidate run, I’m not quite sure how you have a debate or conversations with a non-candidate.”
Carpenter said that the write-in effort will not change her approach to her campaign in a major way. She said she has continued to knock on doors and meet voters even when it appeared she would be the only candidate in the race.
Redic ran in 2019 as an independent against Paulino and Kienan Christianson, who ran as an independent with the Progressive endorsement. Redic, an accountant, dropped out of the race days before the election and endorsed Paulino.
Redic said she was running as an independent and decided to run when she heard Wright would not. She said she had collected enough signatures to be on the ballot.
She described herself as a conservative libertarian, and said public safety and taxes are two key issues for her.
“I don’t hear anyone on City Council discussing the real problems that are facing Burlington residents, and that is taxes are out of control,” she said. “They are already out of control.”
Redic said she opposes the three tax increases on the March ballot — the school budget increase, the public safety tax increase that will pay for an ambulance in the New North End and a charter change which would increase the tax that funds the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
“If they want more money for the ambulance, which I agree they need, then they need to cut the budget somewhere else,” she said.
VTDigger is underwritten by:
Missing out on the latest scoop? Sign up here to get a weekly email with all of VTDigger's reporting on politics. And in case you can't get enough of the Statehouse, sign up for Final Reading for a rundown on the day's news in the Legislature.