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September 28, 2008

Update: Kesha Doesn't Care About Lawn Signs

Kesha_headshot On Saturday I got the chance to sit down with Democrat Kesha Ram at her apartment in Burlington. Kesha is running to represent Chittenden 3-4 (the Hill, Old North End, and University District) down in Montpelier come November. We met so that she could challenge the idea being asserted by some people (ahem) that her small market-share of supportive lawn signs indicates that the race is not boding well for her.

Needless to say, she doesn't buy it.

In fact, Kesha tells me that she believes the race is going well. She is confident that her challenge to the Progressive ticket of Chris Pearson and David Zuckerman will break this district's two-cycle tenure holding the "lowest turnout" title.

The smell of change is in the air this autumn, and Kesha wants to ride the tide. While she wouldn't come out and explicitly say that David Zuckerman, who came into office "all those years ago" as a fresh-faced UVM graduate, is not too old and out-of touch with the young and growing student population, she does drop some serious hints: ""Twelve years. That's a long time, and there's turnover for a reason."

I ask her if she thinks lawn signs are the best real-time polls available. "No," she says. "I don't even have a sign on my lawn." She doesn't. Her warm, clean, and surprisingly new (for Burlington) apartment, with its signless front lawn, sits directly between the end of the UVM Central Campus and the beginning of the off-campus housing sprawl — perhaps a metaphor for the two communities she's trying to bridge if she wants to win this election.

We're sitting in her living room on two ridiculously comfortable couches, next to a large, low table piled with campaign materials, forms, fliers, stickers — the works.

Instead of gauging the lawns, Kesha is putting supreme confidence in what she perceives to be her core areas of strength: Competence, accessibility, and youth. She's counting on college students to instantly identify with her as a fellow 20-something, recalling her time as an effective SGA President (granted, UVM civic pride isn't exactly high — not even 1,000 Catamounts voted in last year's student body election). But she's already helped register 700 voters on-campus. (And was sure to let me know that there's plenty of green Kesha sings in UVM dorm windows.)

Regarding off-campus Burlington residents who may be wary of the ability of a member of the Class of '08 (born in California) to represent their interests, Kesha cites the countless doors she's knocked on, showering me with anecdotes about free-wielding conversations with old ladies on topics ranging from politics in Montpelier to the merits of Madame Butterfly. Her buzzword for catching the over-30 crowd: accessibility. "They just want to know you," she explains with a laugh. 

Taken together, she sees these assets as vehicles to reach out to the two communities she needs to win over to win the election: the large but unreliable UVM student population and the turnout-heavy off-campus Burlington resident population.

It's a tricky tightrope to walk, balancing the wants and needs of two very different communities. But as we spoke, Kesha demonstrated the same pragmatic approach to mediating student demands with community concerns as she did as SGA President. "I'm not standing up there with a ponytail saying we're going to legalize marijuana," she says, leaning back into the cream-white pillows of her way-too comfy couch, "but I am going to show that I'm accessible and can talk to every person. Elections are won by talking to every single person."

Kesha was also sure to fire-off her own list of important VT endorsements. At the top of the list, former Governer Kunin and former City Council President Ian Carleton.

I left her house with the impression that Kesha knows what's good. She knows that she is a likable and impressive woman with a solid resume given her limited years, and she knows that things like that really do count in local elections. We'll see how that plan plays out come November.

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Comments

Steve Smithe

If it ain't broke don't fix it!!! Ram presents no legitimate policy differences with either Zuckerman or Pearson, both of whom have extensive experience and the political capital to get things done in Montpelier. They have a 100% pro-environment, pro-labor, and pro-equal rights voting record.

Vermonter

I am wondering about the comment, "I'm not standing up there with a ponytail saying we're going to legalize marijuana,"
Is that what she thinks the Progressives have done? It doesn't seem like we need to have that type of negativity or stereotyping in a local election.

bridgetb

I was wondering about that, too. I couldn't tell if the comment was meant to say that she's not just some college student, or if it was a stab at Progressives. If it was the latter, I'm pretty turned off by it.

Cathy Resmer

When I read it, I figured she was trying to contrast herself with Dave Zuckerman, though I don't think he has a ponytail anymore.

Vern

I, too, was taken back by her comment about the ponytail and marijuana. David Zuckerman worked hard to pass legislation that would allow people with HIV, cancer and MS, to use medical marijuana. David met with each individual that came to testify because of their diseases and how they found that medical marijuana helped make their lives livable. His compassion for these Vermonters was deeply appreciated. David has been a voice for those who ae struggling in live and it would be a shame to lose him or Chris in this election.
I think that Ms. Ram needs to be careful about how she attackes these two fine legislators.

Max Bookman

Thank you everyone for taking time to comment. Perhaps I could have phrased it better, but in the context of our conversation, Ms. Ram was actually trying to demonstrate how she is different than the typical fresh college graduate - that she has sufficient maturity and grasp of what's important to non-UVM affiliates, and is not just talking about police and pot.

PS - stay tuned on Friday when I speak with Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Pearson to get their responses.

-Max

Kesha Ram

Members of the Seven Days blogosphere:

Seeing my remarks regarding having a ponytail and legalizing marijuana isolated from the conversation Max and I were having is understandably irksome. I apologize if you found them offensive. I was referring to the challenges of overcoming community perception around being a recent grad running for office and catalyzing youth participation. It was a feeble attempt at a joke and I regret it. Furthermore, I applaud Representative Zuckerman's leadership on marijuana legalization.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you had any other questions or concerns.

Thanks,

Kesha

881-4433

mr rogers

im not surprised by the condescending comment kesha made, considering it came from some west coast out of stater trying to tell us vt-ers how to run our own lives. by the way, wasn't she sga pres when fogel began using drug-dogs in the dorms. I guess she doesn't mind getting rid of those "pony-tailed pot-heads" from uvm.

blonde

Ian Carleton? The one that stuck us with Gaye Symington? Wow, thanks, Ian. We're grateful.

Sam

Did anyone think that maybe Kesha wears her hair in a pony tail sometimes? God people, get a grip. Everyone knows Dave doesn't have enough hair to do that so stop fretting over a stupid comment.

Matthew

No, Sam. Its not possible! No one is allowed to wear their hair in a pony tail ever! I kid, I kid...

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