March Election Results
by Irene Wrenner
March 14, 2022
Ethan Lawrence Wins
Hard-Fought SB Race
At stake in the election on March 1st was a one-year seat on the Town Selectboard, the remainder of Vince Franco’s unexpired term.
Sue Cook was appointed to fill the vacancy in October, but she did not re-apply for the seat this winter.
Lawrence, a 26-year-old father and farmer, ran a grassroots campaign on a shoestring budget. His run for office sharply contrasted with the high-profile, deep-pocketed effort from Shelden, a 51-year-old software engineer.
Selectboard seats are, by definition, nonpartisan. That didn’t stop Shelden, chair of the local Democratic caucus, from running at the request of friends who wanted to see a contested race.
His campaign paid to use several Democratic Party tools to assist with mailing and payment processing.
Shelden netted a significant number of write-in votes, 2507, but not enough to top Lawrence’s 2981. The winner’s post-election interview may be viewed here.
The publisher endorsed Lawrence in an email sent to a personal mailing list, and two staff volunteered time toward his campaign. We did not financially support any candidate this cycle.
Town Budget Passes Easily
Voters approved the proposed FYE23 Town Budget of nearly $16.7 million: 4768 to 1266.
They also re-elected Steven Eustis as Town Moderator and Aaron Martin as Champlain Water District Commissioner. Both men ran uncontested and received more than 5000 votes.
Eustis is a resident of Essex Junction. Should the Village’s Charter for Separation pass the legislature this session, he would no longer be a resident of Essex Town, as of July 1st. In that case, another Moderator would be selected for next year’s Town Annual Meeting.
Hill-Fleury, Chamberlin Take 3-Year Seats
Selectboard incumbent Dawn Hill-Fleury (4280 votes) and first-time candidate Kendall Chamberlin (3250) finished ahead of Andrew Champagne (1890) to win the two 3-year seats.
None of these candidates filed campaign finance reports prior to the vote as little, if any money, was spent on their race.
There was minimal buzz on social media about them. No lawn signs were seen about town. Nor were any of them seen outside the polling places on Election Day.
All three candidates did take part, along with Ethan Lawrence, in the first Selectboard Candidate Debate hosted by the Essex Retorter and held at Uncommon Coffee on February 18th.
Town Opts In to Sell Retail Cannabis
Voters spoke decisively on March 1st to allow cannabis to be sold in retail stores throughout town: 3589 to 2473. Meredith Mann is part-owner of the Magic Mann cannabis confectionary in the Essex Experience.
For her this outcome entailed many months of work, collecting signatures on a petition to request the vote, as well as educating the community about the benefits of regulated THC products.
Mann said, “We are thrilled and humbled that the Essex Community has voted yes to adult use sales. We look forward to engaging our community, and intend to be exemplary responsible business owners and an asset to Essex.”
The Village Trustees have put Retail Cannabis on their April ballot as well.
In a classic David vs Goliath matchup, first-time candidate Ethan Lawrence bested write-in candidate Brian Shelden by 474 votes.