Culcleasure joins Chittenden Central Senate race; Mahnke files for recount

Infinite Culcleasure, left, and Erhard Mahnke. File photo by Bob LoCicero/VTDigger and courtesy photo

Former Burlington mayoral candidate Infinite Culcleasure has joined the state Senate race as an independent in the Chittenden County Central district. The slate of Democratic candidates is still unsettled as Erhard Mahnke officially requested a recount Thursday.

“Redistricting has made campaigning accessible for independent candidates such as myself,” Culcleasure said in an interview Thursday. 

The new three-seat district is made up of Burlington's New and Old North Ends, Winooski, a sliver of Colchester, all of Essex Junction and parts of Essex town. Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, is the only incumbent.

Culcleasure said he feels his chances are good given the lack of incumbents, though he noted that Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, P/D-Essex, who finished second to Baruth, is well known. “It felt like an opportunity,” he said.

Culcleasure made a bid for Burlington mayor in 2018, running as an independent. He earned 16% of the vote, finishing third to incumbent Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, and Carina Driscoll,  a Progressive. 

A Burlington resident and parent of a 4-year-old, Culcleasure said he is a community organizer with grassroots and lobbying experience. His priorities include improving public engagement, literacy and education, and housing issues affecting Vermont renters and homeowners.

Meanwhile, Mahnke said that his attorney, John Franco, filed for a recount Thursday afternoon. 

Mahnke finished just two votes behind Martine Gulick, according to unofficial Associated Press results. The Democratic candidates are vying to clinch the third spot on the November ballot. 

Baruth and Vyhovsky secured the first two spots with 5,710 and 5,140 votes, respectively. Gulick finished with 3,949, and Mahnke with 3,947. Dawn Ellis finished fifth with 3,329.

The petition for recount filed Thursday notes that Mahnke was informed Aug. 10 that official results may not be available for a week and that the unofficial results show a two-vote difference.

According to Vermont law, state Senate candidates can request recounts “if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is two percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected.”

“This margin is .0002718 as calculated under 17 V.S.A § 2602(a)(1), within the 2% threshold entitling Mr. Mahnke to a recount,” Franco wrote in the Aug. 11 letter filed in Superior Court in Burlington.

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Auditi Guha

About Auditi

Auditi is Chittenden County editor at VTDigger. Originally from Calcutta, India, she graduated from Emerson College with an MA in journalism. She has worked as an editor and reporter for several newspapers, and in various beats. Most recently, she covered race and justice at Rewire.News, and higher education at the New Bedford Standard-Times. She previously worked at several Massachusetts newsrooms. She is a mentor for young reporters through the Report For America program, founded the Boston chapter of the South Asian Journalists Association, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Email: [email protected]

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