Updated 3:09 a.m. Tuesday, July 23, with full rewrite, new details and comments.
NORWALK, Conn. – Bruce Kimmel is clinging to his Democratic party affiliation even as he runs for the Norwalk Common Council as a Republican-endorsed Common Council at-large candidate.
Nominated by Councilman David McCarthy, who made Mayor Richard Moccia wince with his caustic comments about the Democratic Town Committee, Kimmel said running as a Democrat on a Republican ticket is “totally legal” and a sign of the kind of bipartisanship that cities need.
“This is something new, for me, for the Republicans,” said Kimmel, who left the Democratic caucus shortly after winning election as a Democratic District D Common Councilman in 2011 and joined the Republican caucus after a year on his own. “This is taking bipartisanship a step further. Many towns already have non-partisan elections. Most big cities. With local issues, having these big fights with two parties – it’ll be a thing of the past in 20 years. Norwalk Republicans are moving in the direction of many other parties. Democratic and Republican, different municipalities. I’ve always been told bipartisanship is good.”
McCarthy’s growing reputation as an attack dog showed itself in the most caustic speech of the evening.
“As I look around this room I see people from every walk of life and different political spectrum, which proves to me that this Republican party is truly a big tent party in the city of Norwalk,” he said. “This is in stark contrast for the Democrat organization in the city, which, because of a never-ending focus on special interests, its thuggish behavior has seen wholesale defection from their ranks, and in fact a criminal citation, of many of their office holders and candidates – it has to be said.”
That last phrase – “it has to be said” – was in response to the reaction from the room. At the word “thuggish,” both Moccia and his wife Barbara bowed their heads. Moccia smiled, but didn’t look up again until McCarthy finished.
“This is unprecedented, but it’s unfortunately not surprising,” McCarthy continued. “That should absolutely not be a reflection on all Democrats in the city of Norwalk.”
He moved on to endorsing Kimmel, “someone I can call friend, someone with whom I can easily work with … someone who works for Norwalk, not himself. For constituents, not cronies. Regardless of an occasional difference on the issues, I have always respected his thought process, his logic and his courteous, factual manner.”
Councilman Jerry Petrini, who ran against Kimmel in the last election, seconded the nomination.
“I wholeheartedly support Bruce,” he said. “You’re not going to find a more intelligent council person, a person who does his homework, very fair, and he is for Norwalk. He is not a Republican, he’s not a Democrat. He is for what he votes for. He caucuses with us and I, wholeheartedly, am so glad to support his nomination for council at large.”
Kimmel had said in April that he had many options and didn’t know which one he would choose.
“Believe me, it wasn’t as if it was a done deal,” he said Monday night.
Having a primary for an at-large seat would mean “everybody spends a fortune” to knock off the weakest candidate, he said.
“If I were running in District D, I would have primaried,” he said. “But at-large, it makes no sense.”
Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Amanda Brown, in the room to see Kimmel nominated by the Republicans, gave a low-key response to the unusual twist.
“I have no idea whether it’s legal or not, but I do know that the citizens of Norwalk will make the decision when the time comes in November, who should be elected,” Brown said. “If they choose Mr. Kimmel, than I can’t fault them for that because that’s their choice.”
Correction, 12:33 p.m.: Kimmel did not join the Republican caucus right after the election.
NORWALK – Bruce Kimmel, a District D Democrat who has been caucusing with the Republicans for much of the past two years, has been endorsed by the Norwalk Republican Town Committee to run for an at-large seat.
The endorsement was made Monday night at the NRTC convention at the Norwalk Inn.
As expected, incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia was nominated for a fifth two-year term at the helm of Norwalk’s government.
Moccia took the opportunity to question how the city’s embattled Democratic Party can lecture him on civility, and proceeded to snipe at each of his challengers, including former Police Chief Harry Rilling, who he ridiculed for looking for another job while under contract to Norwalk, and who he subsequently appointed to the Zoning Commission. He also said Matt Miklave’s Performance Based Budgeting plan was something his administration already does, and that Andy Garfunkel should have done a better job as town clerk.
Rilling fired back via email.
“Moccia extended my contract as police chief three times and appointed me to one of the most important commissions in the city. To now question my professionalism, competency and commitment to Norwalk is disingenuous and self-serving,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to service of my country and my community.”
Rilling said he has support from Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, and that his record of service “speaks for itself.”
“I stand ready to engage in a dialogue on what is not happening in Norwalk and how other communities are moving in a positive direction while in Norwalk ‘for sale’ signs are becoming more prevalent every day,” he said; “while businesses are closing; how we are not aggressively pursuing investors to bring smart growth and development to a city with amazing natural resources and cultural diversity. I am a proud son of Norwalk and I am committed to serving all people. I look forward to making Norwalk the best it can be.”
Democratic mayoral hopeful Vinny Mangiacopra, who is also the Democratic District D chairman, issued a statement regarding Moccia’s official nomination.
“If Mayor Moccia’s promises included higher taxes, a $4 million education budget shortfall, and stagnant growth, then I can understand his new slogan (Protecting Norwalk’s Future, but formerly Promises Made, Promises Delivered). The longer Moccia has been in office, the further out of touch he has fallen. He certainly knows how to take care of his own, but we need a mayor who can take care of all Norwalk’s 85,000 residents.”
Kimmel, who abandoned the Norwalk Democratic Party in deed, if not in name, not long after being elected in 2011, did not seek nomination from the NDTC to retain his District D seat.
In choosing to caucus with the Republicans, Kimmel slammed the local party’s behavior and partisanship and said he wanted to do what was best for Norwalk rather than one political party.
Kimmel will be joined in the at-large field by Republicans Joe Kendy, Glenn Iannacone, Richard Bonenfant and Doug Hempstead.
Republican Common Council district nominees include:
District A: Robert Mercurio and Ed Ryan
District B: Frank Verdone and Edward McQuillan
District C: Michelle Maggio and Sarah Mann
District D: Jerry Petrini and Shannon O’Toole Giandurco
District E: Emily Wilson and David McCarthy
Rick McQuaid was nominated for re-election as town clerk.
Board of Education candidates nominated include John Bazzano, Sue Haynie, Lauren Rosato and Artie Kassimis.
Common Councilman Fred Bondi (R-At-Large) was nominated for constable.
Check back later for more from the convention.
Nancy Guenther Chapman was at the convention and did the reporting for this story.