Morris fails to force mayoral primary; Mosby’s fate uncertain

The 2017 Norwalk mayoral candidate lineup: From left, Mayor Harry Rilling, Republican Town Committee Chairman Andy Conroy, Lisa Brinton Thomson and State Rep. Bruce Morris.

Updated, 1:31 p.m.: No Rowayton Cowboy.

NORWALK, Conn. — A flurry of activity Wednesday on City Hall’s first floor netted the following developments in this fall’s election:

  • There will be no Democratic primary for mayor
  • There will be four candidates for mayor listed on the ballot Nov. 7, as State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) has secured a petition candidacy for the general election
  • The only city-wide primary would be for Democratic Board of Education seats – BoE member Shirley Mosby has submitted petitions but they have not been validated yet
  • Common Council member Steve Serasis is seeking re-election as a petition candidate
  • Diane Lauricella and Sharon Stewart will be on the ballot as Council petition candidates Republican Marilyn Knox has withdrawn her BoE candidacy.
  • There will be Working Families Party candidates in every district, for the first time


Morris doesn’t force primary, but will be on ballot

Morris, who on July 27 sent out a press release vowing to take Mayor Harry Rilling to a primary, did not qualify, Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said.

Morris did not return a phone call nor an email asking for details. He needed 942 signatures from registered Democrats and in the July 27 press release said that his team had “already gathered most of the signatures we need to bring my candidacy to the people.”

Morris instead garnered 280 signatures for a petition candidacy, Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said, explaining that only 133 were needed. Morris has qualified, McQuaid said.

Wells explained that signatures for petitioning candidates can come from a voter registered to any party, which “makes it much more likely that you get a high yield” of verified signatures.

Morris’ name will be last on the list of mayoral candidates, according to an explanation of the ballot that Wells offered Tuesday. Rilling will be first, as the candidate in the same party as the governor. Republican Andy Conroy will be second, as the other major party candidate. Whoever gets a Working Families Party endorsement will be listed third. Lisa Brinton Thomson will be fourth, if there are no other established party candidates, because she turned in her general election petitions first.

Scott Merrell, also known as the Rowayton Cowboy, will not be on the ballot as a mayoral candidate, Wells said Thursday.

Morris, in the July 27 press release, said, “My goal is to create a better quality of life for Norwalk’s citizens – all of Norwalk’s citizens – to bridge the gaps by leveraging our greatest assets – our people, our local businesses, our neighborhoods, schools and organizations. Working together, empowering the weakest and the strongest among us, we will achieve greater economic security for our city and build a safer, stronger, prouder Norwalk for years to come.”


Mosbys on edge

Candidates and their supporters bopped back and forth between the registrar’s office on one end of the first floor, and the town clerk’s office on the other, some leaning over a blue tape in the registrar’s office to hand primary petitions to Deputy Democratic Registrar Ron Banks and others energetically asking questions in McQuaid’s office about general election petitions.

John Mosby chides Norwalk Deputy Democratic Registrar Ron Banks on Wednesday in City Hall, as former Common Council member Sharon Stewart listens.

Prominent in this group was the entourage supporting Mosby, who is seeking reelection after the Democratic Town Committee declined to endorse her. She’s the only person who may qualify for a city-wide primary, Wells said.

After the 4 p.m. deadline, some Mosby supporters expressed skepticism about the process.

“If (Wells) rigged it he’s going to be in trouble,” said John Mosby, Shirley Mosby’s father. “…We had to work like dogs … People did a beautiful job.”

Mosby had 1,146 signatures, much more than the 946 required, but the problem is they need to be verified, Wells said.

“It depends on the yield,” Wells said to a Mosby supporter. “We’ve checked some (signatures), they haven’t made it. You’ve got to get about 80 percent and the earlier ones were 75 percent, which means it’s nip and tuck.”

Some people say they’re Democrats but they’re registered as unaffiliated voters, Wells explained to NancyOnNorwalk. With a crew of people knocking on doors to get signatures, it’s possible that there are duplicate names on the petitions, he said. There’s also a need to verify addresses.

McQuaid described this as a tedious process. With the petitioning candidates it’s relatively easy because there are less signatures, he said.

Wells predicted that he won’t have an answer on Mosby for two or three days. He can go through two to four pages in an hour and there are 60 pages left to process, he said.

Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons helps check for duplicates but she is out sick, he said.

He’s only checked a small percentage of petitions because most came in late, he said, explaining that, “My impression is likely to come down to the wire with the number that she has.”

Shirley Mosby declined to comment on the process but said she learned a lot from getting signatures, because, “A primary is something totally different than just knocking on doors for the election… its a different animal.”

“Whether I win or lose I’ve got such insight into what the people out there are saying. There are so many different issues that are out there. We all think the Board of Ed is great but these people have individual issues.”

One woman felt that the schools were looking too much into her home life and blaming it for issues, and another voter had concerns about her high school senior getting enough academic time, she said.

John Mosby complained that the list of registered voters provided by Wells was not accurate, that some people were marked as unaffiliated voters when they were Democrats. He had turned in 200 signatures and there were questions about 12 of them, he said.

Shirley Mosby said she “100 percent agreed” that the list was inaccurate.

“It brings some hardship,” she said.

Mosby would challenge DTC-endorsed candidates Heidi Keyes, Bruce Kimmel, Sarah Lemieux and Barbara Meyer Mitchell.

Republican-endorsed candidates at this point are Marc D’Amelio, Thomas Donaher and Thomas Cullen.


Former Common Council member Sharon Stewart, middle, hands filled out petitions to Town Clerk Rick McQuaid on Wednesday in City Hall, as a young helper, Ty, stands nearby.

Serasis, Stewart and Lauricella qualify as petitioning candidates

“According to my numbers, you have qualified,” McQuaid said to Lauricella, as the deadline approached.

Lauricella, who along with Stewart failed to get a DTC endorsement for a Council at large seat, said she decided several weeks ago not to try for a primary. She had gotten about 150 of the 942 signatures needed but her mother’s health took a downturn and, “I just couldn’t organize it it was too much,” she said.

District D Democrat Diane Lauricella, left, got help from South Norwalk resident Louis Dimeglio, right, in her petition drive. Lauricella has assisted DiMeglio in his complaints about a wood-chipping landscape business next door to his home.

“I look forward to ensuring that important issues get discussed during this campaign season. I know I’m the underdog but it will be a fun time,” said Lauricella, who was aided in getting signatures by Bill Wrenn and Louis DiMeglio.

McQuaid said that Stewart and Lauricella needed 135 signatures to be petitioning candidates; Lauricella had nearly 200 and Stewart, a former Council member, had 252.

Serasis only needed 23 signatures to get on the general election ballot as a District A Council candidates and, “He’s fine,” McQuaid said.

“He kind of got a raw deal,” McQuaid said. “He actually drove back and forth to Hartford and was given not the best information. Was told Fed Ex and he didn’t get it until the last minute.”

The DTC endorsed incumbent Eloisa Melendez and newcomer Chris Yerinides as District A candidates. Kadeem Roberts has qualified to challenge them in a primary.

Republicans have endorsed former City Clerk Ellen Wink and Frederick Fusci as their District A candidates.


Knox is out

Knox, who was endorsed by the Republican Town Committee for a BoE run, withdrew her candidacy on Wednesday, McQuaid said.

“It is a conflict since I am employed by NPS,” Knox said in a text message. “According to CT statutes an employee of the school district cannot serve on the BOE. Even though I’m not an administrator or in a decision-making capacity.”

She’s been a bookkeeper at Brien McMahon High School for 15 years, and was an office aide at Rowayton Elementary School for five years before that, she said.


Working Families Party

Democrats who were petitioning to get Working Families Party lines on the ballot have succeeded, McQuaid said.

The party can choose to endorse a candidate but if there hasn’t been a WFP candidate in that district previously it won’t get on the ballot.

In the next election cycle, just about every candidate who applies for a WFP endorsement will get on the ballot, he speculated.

Qualifying as in-district WFP Council candidates for the first time were District E Democratic incumbents John Igneri and Thomas Livingston, District D DTC-endorsed candidates William Pappa and George Tsiranides, and District B Democrats Manny Langella and Hector Correra.

Langella sought a DTC endorsement but failed. Both tried to force a District B Democratic primary but, “They didn’t get enough and abandoned that,” Wells said.

Langella and Correra are registered Democrats – Langella is District B treasurer – but were endorsed by the RTC.

That might be a first for Connecticut, McQuaid said – Working Families Party candidates who are also on the Republican line.

Wells speculated that it may have happened in Bridgeport or Hartford, as they are Democrat-heavy town and the WFP is essentially the second party.

Kimmel sought a WFP endorsement but was turned down.

“I think Working Families Party looks at the candidate overall instead of just a (rubberstamping) a candidate,” McQuaid said.

A WFP endorsement can get a candidate 200-300 extra votes, “which can change an election, and it always has,” McQuaid said.



One more thing

Mike Barbis is still running unopposed for reelection as Six Taxing District Commissioner, despite a last-minute Republican inquiry, Wells said.

Thomas W. Robinson asked for petitions and would have gone straight to the ballot as the Republican nominee if he got enough signatures, but instead conceded, Wells said, explaining that the interest came too late.

If Robinson had asked for petitions Friday, he would have easily gotten enough signatures, Wells said. But Robinson asked on Monday and it is very difficult to find Republicans in Rowayton during the week as most work in Manhattan, he said.


Donna August 10, 2017 at 7:07 am

We are truly fortunate to have so many interested candidates knocking on doors and collecting signatures. Shirley Mosby’s take on the process–that knocking on doors got her closer to the issues–impressed me. And I hope she has enough signatures to force a primary. I’m sorry Bruce Morris didn’t get the signatures he needed to force a primary with Rilling. Rilling needs someplace to spend all that cash he’s been taking in.

Congrats to Diane Lauricella and others on moving forward. As Jordan Baker said, “life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Debora Goldstein August 10, 2017 at 10:24 am

I am stunned that anybody would suggest that Stuart Wells would “fix” anything to do with the elections. He has ALWAYS operated with integrity as a registrar. He works hard. He provides plenty of context and guidance to anyone who asks and is well-respected among the registrars throughout the state. He deserves respect, not baseless accusations.

Adolph Neaderland August 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

Personally, I think a primary is a worthwhile process of having potential candidates’ put forth their proposals, one on one.

A primary offers the voters a chance to ask questions of their party’s candidates, to evaluate their positions and prevent diluting the election day voting.

Donna August 10, 2017 at 12:28 pm

@Debora, I wouldn’t put much stock in John Mosby’s comments. Uncalled for and baseless, but unsurprising.

Louis August 10, 2017 at 12:34 pm

If there are 1000 democrats in Norwalk that think Shirley Mosby should get a shot at a primary, we have bigger problems.

Mike August 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm

I also would be shocked about somebody suggesting that Stuart Wells would “fix”, but look at source. John Mosby professes nothing but hate and bigotry.

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