Jessica Sell Chambers has secured a spot on the general election ballot for the Jackson Town Council race. The national committeewoman to the Democratic National Committee received 193 write-in votes, or 3.8 percent. She will compete against educator Jim Rooks, realtor Devon Viehman and Mayor Pete Muldoon for the council’s two open seats. Mayoral write-in candidate Michael Kudar also will have a home on November’s ballot. Kudar drew 632 write-in votes, or 25.2 percent, and will face off against Vice Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson. He is running on a platform anchored by government accountability, fiscal responsibility and the need to create partnerships between the public and private sectors to solve Jackson’s housing and transportation issues.
“It’s time to make our government more accountable, to show respect for taxpayers, and to solve Jackson’s problems like building housing and providing youth facilities for our kids through partnership and not confrontation and fighting,” Kudar said in a statement.
While there was little question that Kudar would gain the requisite three write-ins to compete in the mayoral race, there was less certainty about who would join Rooks, Viehman and Muldoon on the Town Council ticket. Two write-in candidates were pushing for the fourth spot on the ballot: Chambers and Jennifer Ford.
Just one week before the primary, Chambers made an official push, posting signs and canvassing voters. Meanwhile, an unofficial campaign was underway for Ford largely through word of mouth. Ford, a business owner and consultant, wanted to diversify Jackson’s service-based economy and lower housing mitigation rates that require developers to pay for a significant portion of employee housing.
In light of the news that she would not be advancing to the general election, Ford said in an email she is still looking at ways she can support the community. Ford is already focused on such an endeavor that spans beyond Jackson. She is a member of Gov. Mark Gordon’s COVID-19 Business and Financial Sector Task Force and is developing resources for small business owners in the age of COVID.
Chambers, meanwhile, said she is building a campaign increasingly focused on the need for women representation in local government—just one woman, Morton Levinson, currently sits on Town Council. This moment, she said, demands female voices. She pointed to a recent post on the Jackson Police Department’s police blotter that made light of a potential case of sexual assault. Mayor Pete Muldoon, she said, is so far the only male politician to denounce the post.
“We have had radio silence from all other male politicians and candidates on the post and the subsequent excuse for an apology,” she said. “We have heard nothing from these men to denounce this, to demonstrate that they have an understanding of how both of those things were so wrong. This is just an indicator of why we need to have women elected. We’re the only ones it seems to have an understanding about these systems, about these lived experiences.”
One in six women, Chambers said, has either been raped or experienced attempted rape. “That’s not even talking about sexual abuse or assault. One in three women are victims and while that is not to say men are not victims—one in 10 are victims of sexual assault—these are things that are just outside the lived experiences of many men.”
Chambers said she is also focused on uplifting vulnerable members of the community and mitigating the economic impacts of COVID-19. She says urging voters to approve a seventh penny of sales tax in the general election and bolstering the valley’s social services will be integral to this.
Read more about results from the primary election here.