Voters in Rutland, Vermont have ousted their long-time mayor. In the four-way race on Town Meeting Day, city councilor David Allaire defeated five-term incumbent Christopher Louras.
According to unofficial returns Allaire received 2,196 votes to Mayor Christopher Louras’ 1,420. Michael Coppinger came in third with 559 and Kam Johnston received 54 votes.
Attempts to reach Allaire Wednesday morning were unsuccessful. The mayor-elect is an off-site sales manager for a Rutland company and was on the road.
In the last mayoral forum he echoed what he told the Rutland Herald after winning: he wants to restore trust in City Hall. “Certainly what this town has gone through, uh the city has gone through, over the last year there’s a divide, there is no consensus, or a lack of consensus on how we should move forward. I have tried to provide a message and that message is: I will bring trust, transparency and leadership to City Hall.”
Coppinger is disappointed to lose, but has no regrets about his campaign. “It’s pretty clear from talking with folks as they were exiting the polls the refugee resettlement program, not necessarily the program itself but the mayor’s handling of it, seemed to weigh heavily with voters. I was trying to talk about things that I thought were pressing and ailing the city and things that we needed to focus on. Unfortunately I don’t think it resonated at least in this election. I think as the months go on the new administration’s going to have to deal with that. I brought a lot of ideas to the table that hopefully resonated with the new administration and members of the board of aldermen and hopefully some of those initiatives can see their way to fruition.”
Allaire received more votes than the other three candidates combined. Castleton University Associate Professor of Political Science Rich Clark says the real surprise is Allaire’s margin of victory. “In a crowded field of four to get a majority of the vote was pretty stunning. But the folks seemed to be motivated in opposition and that’s where the energy is and we didn’t have a high turnout. Turnout was around 40 percent. So it didn’t require as many votes to overturn the incumbent.”
Clark adds there are a number of factors in the race that may have contributed to Allaire’s win including the fire department’s endorsement. But he expects speculation regarding Louras’ loss will center on the controversy over refugee resettlement. “That’s the narrative. We don’t really have any data to suggest that or to suggest that that’s not the case. And we also know that the fire department and we have other local issues that also moved people to the polls. When the budget was introduced early on there were questions just about the level of funding for fire department.
It’s uncertain what strategy the new mayor will take regarding the future of refugee resettlement plans in the city. U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Director of Government and Community Relations Stacie Blake congratulated the mayor-elect but has not yet interacted with him much. “I met Mr. Allaire one time thus far at the aldermen meeting, oh gosh, almost a year ago. We look forward to working with Mr. Allaire on his timeline of course. I’m sure he has a lot to attend to in his new role and look forward to having these conversations.”
Louras did not speak with reporters Tuesday night. Candidates for Rutland mayor do not specify any party affiliation. Allaire will be sworn in as Rutland’s mayor on March 15th.