Updated, 5:23 a.m. Sept. 4
NORWALK, Conn. – Harry Rilling has the chops to take on Mayor Richard Moccia and run the city of Norwalk, according to Norwalk’s Democratic legislators, who on Tuesday all but called upon the former police chief’s three opponents to drop out of the running before next week’s Democratic mayoral primary.
“Norwalk has four Democratic candidates for mayor,” state Sen. Bob Duff said as he began a press conference in front of City Hall one week before the Sept. 10 primary. “They all bring their unique perspective to the race and have elevated the conversation about what our city needs. I thank all of them for their hard work and efforts. However, it is now time to unite behind a candidate, one who has the best vision for Norwalk, one who has the grassroots support in our community and one who can lead us towards a better tomorrow. Isn’t that what we all want?”
Rilling, who served as Norwalk police chief for 17 years, is competing with District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, Common Councilman Matt Miklave and former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel for the nomination. Duff, state Rep. Chris Perone and state Rep. Bruce Morris made it clear that Rilling is their man, and Morris did not mince many words.
“Harry is a collaborator, he’s a team builder, he is not an egotist,” Morris said. “Something you typically find around politics — a lot of people with big egos. My experience with Harry is he’s always about team building, finding out about how many people we can bring to the table.
While Mangiacopra, 31, cites his master’s degree in city administration as part of his qualifications to be mayor, Rilling has a master’s degree in public administration and all the other qualifications he needs, Morris said.
“You could have all those things and yet be lacking in character,” he said. “I think about Harry Rilling – Harry Rilling is a leader with character.”
Rilling never walked away from a problem, he said, led with grace and worked with people across the socio-economic spectrum, of all ages.
“That’s the kind of leader we need,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what (a person’s) party affiliation was, he showed us ‘I can lead with what is good for all of the residents.’”
Perone called Rilling “a true public servant in every definition of the word,” a reference to Rilling’s service in the Navy during the Vietnam War and his 41 years as a Norwalk police officer.
“So far in this campaign we’ve had very good candidates, but heading into this election we need to have a united voice, a shared vision,” he said. “… Harry Rilling has continued, and continues daily, to reach out to different groups in the city. His support is broad, it is deep and it is honest and it is genuine. These are fundamental qualities that I would like to see in the mayor of the city of Norwalk and it is why I give my 100 percent support for Harry Rilling.”
Rilling said words were inadequate to express his gratitude.
“There is a need for change,” he said. “When the three gentlemen behind me came out and endorsed me, I knew we were on the right track. I knew that our message was getting out.”
“We’re supporting Harry not only because of his record of public service, but what we think his goals are,” Perone said. With the primary a week away, the trio decided, “One strong statement of support made the point pretty clear,” he said.
Duff said they are focused on Rilling.
“We believe he’s the strongest candidate,” Duff said. “Somebody that can unite the city. He can win.”
Rilling said he hoped Norwalkers would take to heart the endorsement from “the people who are working on their behalf, day in day out, to try to get the things that Norwalk needs to make Norwalk better.
“When they say that my candidacy is the one that most fits the needs of Norwalk, I believe that it will have an impact,” he said. “I believe people will sit up and take notice.”
NORWALK — Former Norwalk Chief of Police Harry Rilling picked up the endorsements of three key Democratic state lawmakers this afternoon in his bid defeat three fellow Dems for the right to take on Republican Mayor Richard Moccia this fall.
Sen. Bob Duff and state representatives Chris Perone (D-137) and Bruce Morris (D-140) each announced their support for Rilling at a press conference outside City Hall.
Rilling will be on the Sept. 10 primary ballot with former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, District D Democratic Chairman Vinnny Mangiacopra and Common Councilman Matt Miklave.
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