Burlington's socialist mayor takes on another challenger. Gritty style wins voters but not the governor or political establishment
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He also mentions other successful - if not particularly socialistic - initiatives, including a major street repaving program funded partly by receipts from an ``excavation fee'' charged to all (including city departments) who have to tear up the streets to do their work, and support for the establishment of worker-owned businesses.
``He's not a socialist,'' Mr. Lafayette argues. ``He's done nothing that reeks of radical socialism. He's just a liberal Democrat. I'm a moderate.''
Then why all the fuss? For one thing, there are those who feel that Sanders is antibusiness. Filling station owner Ronald Crosby, speaking of the highter tax rates now charged for commercial property and increased water and electric rates, says, ``Poor people think he's helping them, but everything's aimed at the businessman. `He can pass it on,' Sanders says.''
Sanders is ``abrasive'' toward businessmen, political opponents, and state officials, editor Hemingway says. ``But most businessmen find a way to work with him in the long run.''
``Some of those who are against Bernie are against him not because of his `socialism' but because he won office by `stealing' liberal Democrats,'' Hemingway says. There is intense resentment from the Democratic establishment.
``And,'' he adds, ``Sanders has used the political battles with the party as a selling point in campaigning. `They're the old guard. I'm beholden to no one.'''
Hemingway says he thinks Sanders is beatable, but that he will be in a strong position with a 2 percent unemployment rate in the city, a thriving downtown commercial district, and a large new department store providing jobs and goods for Burlington.
``All the good things would have happened to Burlington without him,'' Lafayette says. ``And he goes up to the state and yells at them when we depend on the state for charter changes. He yells at big business, but if you look, he has been in partnership with them.''
So this self-proclaimed socialist running for reelection in a small New England city will be attacked not for his ideology but for the nitty-gritty of his style and policies. In the past Sanders has compaigned energetically, knocking on doors, shaking hands on street corners. His folksy populism goes a long way here, political observers say.
Lafayette disagrees. ``The people who know the mayor and watch him will see that he talks about cooperation at election time, but will know better,'' he says.
``He was a true revolutionary,'' Lafayette concludes. ``He knew how to overthrow a government but not how to run one.''