NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s latest mayoral candidate, Lisa Brinton Thomson, shied away from mayoral talk in January, Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Andy Conroy said Monday.
“The essence (of the conversation was)… ‘if you take that as your first step you are probably aiming a little too high for your intro to government.’ Now, she must have changed her mind,” Conroy said.
Thomson, who formed an exploratory committee in late June, is running for mayor, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State Tina Prakash said Wednesday, officially confirming a widely-held belief in political circles.
Conroy, who is also running for mayor, said he doesn’t think Thomson can win as an unaffiliated candidate.
“I think she could have made a strong (Republican) mayoral candidate,” Conroy said. “Not everybody agrees with me by the way, I am a little bit in the minority of this thinking. She could have pulled in kind of a sweeping group, that thinks along the lines of the unaffiliated group that she is with now, and picked up the Republican core at the same time. I think she would have a shot of winning, actually. She would have put enough groups together that a win was possible.”
Thomson might have a problem with name recognition as well; although she’s known as Lisa Thomson, it’s expected that she will be Lisa Brinton on the ballot.
Thomson said she’d address these questions Tuesday. In an email, she said:
“I will be happy to address all of your questions next week. As I said, we are still in exploratory mode and sorting out a variety of issues before any public declaration is made.
“I continue to be focused on the issues that impact Norwalk residents … I am confident that Norwalkers will be focused on the these, and not concerned with whether my married or maiden name appears on the ballot.”
Conroy, Thomson and State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) are all challenging Mayor Harry Rilling’s bid for a third 2-year term.
Thomson’s committee, Lisa for Norwalk, obtained petitions from the Secretary of State to acquire signatures to make her a candidate, Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said Monday, explaining that Thomson would have to fill out the form to say what office she was running for but not explaining what office that might be.
Prakash in a Wednesday email, said, “Lisa Brinton has obtained petitions for the office of mayor under the name Lisa Brinton. She has until 4 p.m. on August 9 to obtain 133 signatures.”
McQuaid will have to verify the signatures, he said.
Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said Thomson will be Lisa Brinton on the ballot because that’s the name she’s registered to vote under.
Asked if Thomson could change her legal name in time for the election, Wells, in an email, said:
“When a petitioning candidate takes out petition forms, his or her name is checked against the registry list by the Town Clerk. The candidate must use the name on the registry list to petition and she gets her name on the ballot from the name used on the petition. This makes good sense, because the name on the petition is the name that the voters who signed the petition thought they were picking.
“Consequently, since Lisa Brinton has already taken out petition forms, she is stuck with her current name. If she changed her name, she would most likely be required to petition again under the new name. She could still do this, I suppose, but I doubt that she would want to gather signatures all over again.
“This would seem to be the case even if she were changing to her current legal name, rather than to a new legal name. (Her current legal name might be ‘Thomson’ for all I know. We would be looking for advice from the Secretary of the State at that point.
“There are also interesting questions as to what, exactly, your legal name actually is. You can’t always get it on your driver’s license for a variety of strange reasons – For example, you can’t get an accented letter like é or ñ (as in José or Peña) on your driver’s license, and you can’t have a hyphenated first name, and the suffix, ‘III’ becomes ‘3rd,’ etc.”
Conroy said he talked to Thomson at the Jan. 27 Norwalk Mayor’s Ball, asking if she’d be the Republican mayoral candidate. He needed an answer quickly, he said, because the RTC bylaws state that a candidate has to have been Republican “for a certain length of time,” to be considered a “legitimate Republican” and Thomson would have to switch her party affiliation to Republican.
“She had to make up her mind and she more or less finally told me she couldn’t do it as member of the GOP,” Conroy said. “…I think somebody in her group convinced her that to run as a Republican is a death sentence.”
“She has never said to me, ‘I want to run for mayor.’ She only said. ‘I wonder if you guys would…’ That was it,” Conroy said, explaining that none of the party members who talk to Thomson thought she would become Republican.
“I hear lately that she puts it the other way around, that all of these Republicans were kind of blowing her off, didn’t really want to take her seriously,” Conroy said. “I don’t think so. That’s a nice try, but no, I don’t think so.”
Conroy said he saw Thomson two weeks ago, about the time she filed the papers for the exploratory committee. She asked him if he thought the exploratory committee was a good idea, and he said it was smart.
“She ran a bunch of ideas by me but none of them really were definite,” Conroy said. “I keep hearing from people who are close to her that she decided to run for mayor but I didn’t hear that from her.”
“I think, knowing how that group operates that they will go out and recruit in the various neighborhoods and try to get Republican and Democrats to support her,” Conroy said. “That’s perfectly fine. People can support whoever they want to support. I don’t think she’ll win but I think she’ll get all the support she can muster.”
Running unaffiliated “kind of forecloses getting support from Republicans,” Conroy said.
“Now, she will get an occasional Republican to support her,” Conroy said. “I am not real sure what I am going to do with those Republicans but they are not going to be part of anything I do. They will think there is nothing wrong with it, I will say that there’s a lot wrong with it…. Everybody is free to do whatever they want, it’s just they can’t play both sides of the fence at the same time.”
(Lisa Thomson is a former Board member of Chapman Hyperlocal Media Inc., the non-profit parent company of NancyOnNorwalk.)