DEMOCRATIC VICTORY

After an unusually tense race, the state representatives of the newly bipartisan Chittenden 3-4 seek to find a way of putting their embattled campaigns behind them.The results of the Nov. 4 election ousted incumbent Chris Pearson of the Progressive Party to make room for Democrat Kesha Ram, who will serve alongside reelected incumbent David Zuckerman, a Progressive Party member.Chittenden 3-4 is a rare two-seat district in Burlington’s sixth Ward and houses a major section of UVM campus, along with Burlington’s student-populated Hill Section and the Old North End.According to election results released by the town clerk, Zuckerman received the most votes with 2,316 ballots cast in his favor.Following Zuckerman was Ram with 2,164 votes. Pearson finished third in the polls with 1,494 votes. Democratic candidate Phillip Ortego, who said he had no plans to hold office if elected, finished fourth with 781 votes.The election results reported only 24 percent of 3-4 district ballots as having left the choices blank. Zuckerman has served in the State House of Representatives for 12 years. Pearson was appointed to the second seat in the district in the spring of 2006 and was re-elected later that fall. “This race gave voters [in the 3-4 district] a choice for their state representative for the first time in six years, and they decisively chose to elect myself and Dave [Zuckerman],” Ram said. This year’s voter turnout outreached the 2006 election, in which Zuckerman received around 1,600 votes and Pearson about 1,200, Ram said. Ram said she will “have to be very aware that there is some tension between the Democratic Party and the Progressive Party, and that will play out in our relationship.” Zuckerman said that Ram’s campaign is responsible for that tension. “This campaign that [Ram] waged certainly created a great deal of tension. Tension between Progressives and Burlington Democrats that I have not seen for eight or 10 years,” Zuckerman said.Ram described the potential of her upcoming legislative relationship with Zuckerman as falling under a general spectrum that takes place in many two-seat districts. On one end of the spectrum, there are representatives from the same party who work together closely on the issues, Ram said. One the opposite end of the spectrum, Ram said there are “representatives who hardly work together at all, send out different communications, talk to folks at different times in the community, don’t go to the same meetings, and things like that. “I’m hoping we can be somewhere in between in that spectrum,” Ram said. Zuckerman said that reaching a middle ground with Ram was “absolutely a possibility. “A lot of the onus will be on, I think, what she does. She is the one that has cast a number of aspersions in the campaign and we’re going to have to figure out how to work through that,” Zuckerman said. In the heat of the campaign race, roughly a week prior to the election, Ram said she was “frustrated by all of these blatant lies and negative attacks.” Zuckerman said that Ram’s allegation that he and Pearson had been spreading false information was “unsubstantiated,” and that he had asked Ram to specify the attacks she was referring to. Ram said that she spoke to Zuckerman before the day of the election about the statement and specified two examples of where she felt she was being unfairly targeted. Ram cited quotes from Zuckerman saying he had heard Ram only worked one or two days a week at her job at a preschool program in the summer. Ram also mentioned a statement from Pearson saying that she had not put forth any ideas about student leadership when they met for coffee a year earlier. “I think those are both lies and false allegations directed at my campaign, and I stand by that,” Ram said. Zuckerman said the campaign against Ram was a one-of-a-kind experience for him during his 12- year career in politics. “I haven’t seen this level of rumoring and accusations in Vermont politics, except on the statewide scale, but in a local race this has been a first for me,” Zuckerman said. Despite the unusually competitive campaigns of both representatives, they presumably see eye-to-eye on one important aspect of politics – moving forward to work for their constituents. “We plan to meet in terms of how to try and figure some of [the issues raised by the campaigns] out, of how to move forward after a campaign with some very aggressive accusations,” Zuckerman said. Ram shared this general sentiment, saying that the voters deserved their full dedication to the issues. “We have to move on. We owe it to our constituents to work together,” Ram said. Pearson said he had “no idea” whether he plans to run for a seat in the district in 2010. He said he spoke to Ram following the election and congratulated her. Pearson said he looks forward to continuing on with his job, which he has had for years, working for a reform of the national Electoral College.