NORWALK, Conn. – With an acknowledgment that name recognition was his major problem, Councilman Matt Miklave officially kicked off his mayoral campaign Saturday afternoon in front of a mixed crowd at Bradford’s Tavern.
“I do not take this step lightly,” he told the crowd. “I know the path is hard and the odds long. I am not the obvious choice to be Norwalk’s next mayor and I am not nearly as well known as some others. But as I look at the challenges that we face as a community and I look back at my life of community and public experience I believe I have the experience, the ability, the integrity and the vision to help lead this city in a new direction.”
Miklave said he was pleased with the turnout, a crowd of more than 50 people that wasn’t just composed of “traditional Democrats,” although they were there as well. Among those schmoozing were Kate Tepper, Peter Thor, Dianne Lauricella, Bill and Regina Krummel, District C Chairman Ari Disraeli, Lisa Thomson and two Republican spies: Common Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) and Attorney Victor Cavallo.
One Democratic fan spoke of Miklave’s long apprenticeship and the fact that he “really does have ideas.” Another said that only two of the four potential Democratic challengers to Republican Mayor Richard Moccia have experience with elections – Miklave being one of them.
“He’s the only one who will take a pay cut to be mayor,” one said, referring to the others vying for the Democratic nomination: former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra and former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling.
Thor, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said he likes Miklave. “Matt’s got progressive views, but at this point I’m not committed to anyone,” he said. “I admire his views, I admire the work he has done over the years. I have no doubt that he would make a good mayor.”
Some people were there because they have known Miklave for a long time.
Lee Levey said he had gotten to know Miklave while serving on the Common Council. “You get great insight into your fellow councilmen,” he said. “Either they earn your respect or earn your disrespect. I ended up with a great amount of respect for Matt and his work.”
Levey said he had a “good dialogue” with Miklave before Thanksgiving, when he was still exploring the idea of running for mayor. “There’s a great deal of common ground between us,” Levey said. “Even as other candidates came forward, I still have that respect for Matt and he has my support.”
Peter Libre became acquainted with Miklave through fatherhood. “I’ve known Matt for a long time, since we’ve been watching our sons play soccer, standing on the sidelines chit-chatting about everything else that’s going on,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt. I think he’s got good judgment. He’s got good vision for the city and I trust his values.”
Dennis Johnson, a neighbor of Miklave’s on Birch Street and a resident of Norwalk since 2010, said he was at his first political event. He had been invited by the candidate.
“His way of thinking makes sense, and the way he approaches things,” he said, of Miklave.
Johnson, an independent voter, said he wanted to learn about the issues; he said the biggest issue was taxes.
“I personally don’t think what I pay in taxes is actually coming back to the community,” he said.
Miklave, who has thus far built his campaign with a push for Performance Based Budgeting, spoke for 12 minutes, saying at one point that he had begun criticizing the way Norwalk does it’s budgets during his first year on the council. PBB has the support of progressive leaders and conservative leaders alike, he said, mentioning Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis.
“Change will be hard and we’ll have to invest in that change,” he said. “But the cost to our city, the cost to our children will be far greater if we do nothing. If there is one sacred obligation we owe our children it is to leave this city in better condition than we found it.”
Afterward, he said the message is resonating with people.
“That’s why there are so many people here today,” he said. “People that are not traditional Democrats, from all walks of life because they’ve heard the message and that’s what they want. This is a new Norwalk. A new government, a new change. It’s not the same old, same old. We’re not seeking to take one group of insiders and replace them with a different group of insiders. We’re seeking to expand the electorate.”
Correction made, 12:22 p.m. Monday