Simms, Common Council representative for District B, got 72 votes to prevail over the 40 for newcomer Colin Hosten, with 11 votes set aside as “provisional,” to be counted Friday if they are eligible. Hosten said he would petition for a primary.
Speaking after the vote to Board of Education member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell, a Hosten supporter, Simms said, “They tried to put a black face over here to say, ‘Run against these folks.’ That’s absurd because they don’t like African Americans who don’t rubber-stamp what they do in this city.”
Across town, Norwalk Republicans nominated John Flynn to run for the District 140 state representative seat, being vacated by incumbent Democrat Bruce Morris.
The Democratic caucus began with some confusion as the doors to the South Norwalk Community Center were locked 6:30 p.m., advertised on the Democratic Town Committee’s website as the start time for the caucus. A SoNoCC worker eventually arrived to unlock the doors, but confusion continued as he left with only the side doors in the rear of the building open before District B Democrats propped the front doors open.
Numerous people complained about the 6:30 p.m. date, as the actual caucus began at 7:30 p.m. Deputy Democratic Registrar Ron Banks defended the set up in the SoNoCC community room as some complained that only voters should be allowed in the large open space, with Banks saying that the area set off by chains afforded voters the privacy they needed.
Hosten had been outside greeting voters for some time when Brenda Penn-Williams, who does not vote in the district, at 7:19 p.m. asked, “Where’s Travis?” Simms arrived five minutes later.
Sandra Stokes, Simms’s wife, complained to Banks.
“You can’t change to time for voting. You can’t post the time and then change the time,” she said, walking away.
The caucus began and Penn Williams and others who were not qualified to vote were asked to leave.
Patrice Hunt told caucus attendees that she lived in Village Creek, as a neighbor to Hosten,
“Generally, he cares about people and really what a good guy he is. He is very welcoming and friendly, he is very fair. He works tirelessly for the community, he is committed, he is devoted, he knows how to meditate issues,” she said, calling Hosten “very humble and gracious.”
Council member Faye Bowman (D-District B) nominated Simms, calling him “born and raised here.”
“We need someone up in the state that has the experience in politics and has the experience with making laws, and Travis Simms is that person,” she said. “Not only is he a champion here locally he is a world champion. He cares about this community very greatly.”
Each candidate got five minutes to speak, with Hosten going first.
“I was not born and raised in Norwalk but I think I have the second best distinction was that I got to choose to make Norwalk my home,” he said.
“As an educator myself what I do every day is I try to get everybody on the same page,” Hosten said. “That’s what the job is and it’s not always easy and it’s certainly not anybody’s birthright. The person who deserves to be our state representative is the person who’s going to work the hardest.”
He’s knocked on 200 doors in the past two weeks, and his campaign has reached its fundraising goal, he said.
“My goal as our representative is to be a strong partner to the city to make sure that we’re offering cost effective educational opportunities for parents and families,” Hosten said. “And there’s a lot of things that can be done at the state level that will affect our lives here day to day. Issues like ensuring and improving continued affordable health care, addressing gun violence as a public health epidemic which is what it is, treating drug addiction not as a crime but as a medical issue which is what it is being responsible with our environment especially when it comes to the changing climate and our coastlines and the well-being of folks who live in Norwalk’s industrial zones.”
Simms mentioned that he could have left Norwalk after becoming a “world champion boxer” and, “I want to use my platform to exercise my voice to make sure that I expose the corruption and expose the division and that also exposed the nepotism all the monies that are coming to Norwalk, that are not coming into this community, that was appropriate for this community.”
“We have lost a lot over the last decade, including sitting in this building right here,” Simms said. “This building was a staple in our community. This is vital for the folks that live here in Norwalk and particularly South Norwalk. You have a lot of Spanish you have a lot of Haitians you have a lot of African Americans that depend on the surface here.”
He said he negotiated with GGP to get a hotel on The SoNo Collection so that local people could learn to work in the hospitality industry, not just in the retail sector the mall will provide, and helped to create tax relief for seniors, describing himself “been here fighting in the trenches.”
“Still to this day I’m fighting with the Council to make sure that we hold those accountable when the comes into our area, into our district,” Simms said. “I take it very personally when I looked around my shoulder and I see a building being thrown up without any recommendations or comments from the leadership of this community.”
After the vote, Simms loudly criticized Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho for reentering the hall.
Camacho does not live in the district. Simms said he didn’t belong in the hall and Camacho retorted that the voting was over. Simms said Hosten was on the DTC executive committee, working with Camacho.
Bowman said she’d file an ethics complaint against Camacho.
Penn Williams had also reentered the building.
As the votes were counted, Simms told NancyOnNorwalk that Mayor Harry Rilling and Camacho should be neutral about the seat but had been out campaigning for Hosten. Before running for Mayor as a Democrat, Rilling was once set to be endorsed by Republicans to run for Mayor, Simms said.
“I am a Democrat, I have always been a Democrat,” Simms said, calling Rilling unethical. Rilling and Camacho “turned our party inside out” and, “Real Democrats have to deal with this crap. It’s crazy,” Simms said. “They only look out for themselves.”
Banks announced the vote. There were 11 votes cast by people who said they lived in the district but weren’t on the active or inactive list, he said, explaining that Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells will review them Friday and if they are eligible to vote in the district, the votes will be counted.
Hosten would have automatically qualified for a primary if the vote had been a convention, but because the district boundaries are entirely inside of Norwalk the rules for a caucus apply. Camacho said Wednesday that 15 percent of the vote in a convention would qualify for an automatic primary. Hosten will need to collect signatures to qualify or a primary.
“The turnout overall seemed pretty low. I would be interested to see how it compares to previous caucuses,” Hosten said to NancyOnNorwalk.
Nearly 320 votes were cast in the 2014 caucus, in which then- Council member Warren Peña unsuccessfully challenged Morris.
“It’s a shame what’s going on,” Simms said to Meyer-Mitchell. “…They want us to be rubber stamps to allow them to do whatever they want, and that’s never going to happen.”
“I think the people of Norwalk came out and showed that we’re not allowed to be taken advantage of and that we’re going to make sure that we have real representation for the people who really deserve it,” Simms said to NancyOnNorwalk. “And I would say I will go to bat any day to make sure that the people in South Norwalk and the people in Norwalk in general are being well spoken for and well taken care of up in Hartford.”