Norwalk Republicans hear surprise pitch from Dem Mayoral aspirant

Darnell Crosland, lifelong Democrat, enjoys the friendship of Norwalk Republicans recently in a photo he provided to NancyOnNorwalk. Left to right, Thomas Burns, Crosland, RTC Chairman Mark Suda, and Marc and Heidi D’Amelio.  (Contributed)

The election is Nov. 5.

Updated, 4 p.m.: photos added; 9:22 a.m.: Information added.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Republicans on Monday continued their quest to find a Mayoral candidate by hearing from two contenders who are not Republicans.

Lifelong Democrat and activist Darnell Crosland, who is the former head of the Norwalk NAACP, made a surprise pitch to the Republican Town Committee.  If Republicans endorse him for mayor, he’ll join that party, he said. At the same meeting, unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton also addressed the group, seeking a cross-endorsement.  

Both are seeking to unseat three-term incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling, a Democrat.

Crosland in his remarks called Rilling a “former Republican, independent and switch-a-roo guy.”

“I have been a part of Democratic Party for a long time,” Crosland said. “I was born into the Democratic Party. If you are like me, if you have ever been to a party where they are playing the same old song over and over, off beat, you might want to get up and leave that party sooner or later. I have been doing that for so long, and they have been singing the same old song, and the meeting hasn’t changed since Harry came along.”

“Mr. Crossland, {cq} like any citizen, has a right to seek public office,” Rilling wrote in an evening email. “Norwalk is a city on the move and I’m proud of what my team has accomplished during my three terms. I look forward to a civil and robust campaign season focused on the issues important to our community.”

Republican Town Committee Chairman Mark Suda introduced Crosland as someone who has “always been the enemy of mine per se,” since Crosland is a criminal defense lawyer and Suda is a Norwalk Police officer.  But “after talking to him briefly and at length, a few times, I consider him an ally.”

Crosland attempted to get the Democratic endorsement for probate judge last year, but the Democratic Town Committee endorsed Common Council member and relative newcomer Doug Stern.  Crosland challenged Stern in a primary and lost; Stern went on the win the election, in an unexpected “blue wave” defeat for Republican candidate Larry Cafero, former Connecticut House of Representatives Minority leader and a fixture in Norwalk politics for more than 20 years.

Crosland said before the election he became friends with then-State Senate candidate Marc D’Amelio.

“The Democrats want me to believe that the Republican Party is full of gun-slinging individuals, racist individuals, boogie men. I want to ask you if there’s any boogie men here can you please introduce to me? I know Marc,” he said. “…I am so tired of them doing that.”

He’s also been influenced by conservative commentator Candace Owens, who he represented years ago, he said.  Owens has spoken often of a “Blexit,” encouraging people of color to leave the Democratic Party.  “Blexit is the black exit from the Democratic Party. It’s the black exit from permanent victimhood, the black exit from the false idea that we are somehow separate from the rest of America,” Owens told FoxNews in October.

“If you accept me, I accept you, if you are open to new leadership, I am hoping to be a part of that,” Crosland said. “If you are open to endorsing that idea, I am offering to march down to City Hall tomorrow and change my party affiliation. Because I do believe in the historical standpoint that Candace talks about, about Republicans, and where the true democracy came from and how we switched around somehow.”

NancyOnNorwalk previously reported that Brinton addressed Norwalk Republicans on Nov. 26 to tell them about her plans to run, a week before she filed papers to form a candidate committee.   Suda, introducing Brinton, said she called him last week.

“I wanted to come here and find out what’s going on with Republican Party and once again ask for your cross endorsement as I am trying to build a coalition,” Brinton said. “Single party rule is dangerous in this town. There are 22,000 unaffiliates, 21,000 Democrats and 9-10,000 Republicans. In order for us to win, I believe there needs to be a coalition.”

She’s raised $15,000 from small donations, has six fundraisers scheduled and the campaign is stocked with palm cards, magnets, grocery bags and stickers, she said.  Op-eds, media planning, Facebook page updates, and voter data analysis are also underway.  She’ll quit work in June, and will be graduating from American University with a master’s degree in public administration and policy.

“We have started to flesh out our platform, which is based upon, basically, leadership, professional management, better financial management of this city, basically geared toward quality of life,” she said.

Asked afterwards if she would register as a Republican, she said she would not. What does she think about Crosland? “All’s fair in love and war and politics. I have been consistent for two and a half years. I maintain, I’m (unaffiliated) and I need to build a coalition, and candidates have to be sincere about who they are. I have been consistent.”

A Tweet posted Tuesday by Norwalk Mayoral aspirant Darnell Crosland.

Suda declined to comment. Other Republicans did not express strong opinions about Crosland to NancyOnNorwalk.

“I’ve got an open mind,” Common Council member Rich Bonenfant said. “That’s as far as I’m going – this is a new one on us. … The Town Committee, as of yesterday, didn’t know we were going to have somebody else looking for an endorsement. Then today, we found out we were going to have a guest, another person looking for an endorsement.”

Brien McMahon High School Athletic Director Joe Maddafari, who is retiring, told NancyOnNorwalk earlier this month that he was thinking about running for Mayor as a Republican.

Former Council member Shannon O’Toole Giandurco said she hasn’t made a decision regarding who to support.

Norwalkers attend Monday’s Republican Town Committee meeting in the Norwalk Inn.

“I am impressed that he came to speak to us all tonight, in front of the entire RTC,” she said. “He had some interesting things to say. I think there needs to be more discussions. We’ll see what happens.”

Isabelle Hargrove laughed.

“It speaks to that people are not feeling like there is a second choice,” Hargrove said. “I think you have an inner circle of people who are very happy and comfortable right now at City Hall, and then you have a lot of very disenfranchised people. That’s what I see.”

“I got a great reaction from a lot of people, on many different levels,” Crosland said.  He even got some campaign questions — RTC leader Liz Lyons asked him about privatization and the Rainy Day Fund, he said.  His only concern with privatization is existing workers being able to keep their jobs.

“The Rainy Day Fund should be healthy but it shouldn’t be obese,” Crosland said.  He’d like to see extra money in the fund pay expenses that taxpayers would otherwise have to fund.

“Generally speaking, I think that the meeting tonight was great and once we get over sticker shock … we’re going to have a lot of support.”



Educator April 23, 2019 at 11:00 am

So this is all the republicans have to offer? An unaffiliated, who was a democrat then a republican and then an unaffiliated again – or a democrat who is willing to switch only if he is endorsed. The republican party needs to do some soul searching…

Geez April 23, 2019 at 11:13 am

Crosland, a Republican?

I’ll believe it when I see him wear a MAGA hat shaking hands with Mike Barbis.

Mike Mushak April 23, 2019 at 3:34 pm

From the Wikipedia entry on black alt right activist Candace Owens, who Mr.Crosland is quoted in the article as being an “influence”:

“On Facebook, Owens wrote “I proudly self-identify as an Uncle Tom.”

Also from Wikipedia:

Owens hates the NAACP, is opposed to social programs to help the poor, and thinks white nationalism isn’t a threat.

I’m pretty sure Mr. Crosland hasn’t adopted any of these far right positions. So why the special mention of Candace Owens?

Michael McGuire April 23, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Mike Mushak

You should not dismiss Ms. Owners in such a cavalier fashion. Maybe first you should listen to her comments regarding each disparaging remark you assume. You will find a very different story and a courageous woman with a goal to empower black people. She is very much against the systemic stupidity of identity politics which you seem to support.

Victor Cavallo April 23, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Sound familiar Mike Mushak?

“And from my standpoint as a black American, as far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. — U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.” Clarence Thomas.

So you fired the first salvo for Harry. What’s next?

Nancy McGuire April 23, 2019 at 7:05 pm

It seems we are having a frank conversation about race in Norwalk, and I am glad. I hate to identify as white, (and would much rather identify as Texan), but I have been inspired by Candice Owen’s independence, strength of character, authenticity, and integrity. And, by the way, she is a graduate of Stamford High School. My Texan friends have always been envious of Connecticut’s reputation as a strong education state. And Candice is an example of CT’s success. And, funny enough, last year the president of the Stamford high school student body invited her to speak at the graduation commencement. She accepted his invitation, and the school put the kibosh on it. What a shame. If you go past the soundbites and really hear what she says, you might find something interesting.

Ron Morris April 23, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Lisa states
I have been consistent for two and a half years. I maintain, I’m (unaffiliated). Well Lisa your statement is simply not true as you were a Republican upto when you announced that you would be running for Mayor yet again. I guess you realized that most would not vote for anyone in the party of the Russian President Trump.

In her last run as Mayor Lisa Brinton talked and talked about a city manager form of government. This time around not a word of that.
Maybe she changed her mind?
Last time around she was all about being an independent and not owing to any party. Then she became a Republican and then back to an independent when she decided to run for Mayor and didn’t want the Trump backlash.
Maybe she changed her mind.
Lisa stated when challenged about her time as a Republican that she was also a Democrat at several points.
Maybe she changed her mind a few more times?
I hear that now as an independent she has big time Republican as her finance director for her campaign.
Maybe she changed her mind?
Now we hear that she will be endorsed by the Republican Party this time around. I guess so much for not owing to a party.
Maybe she once again just changed her mind.

Do we want someone as Mayor that keeps changing her mind? I would say NOT

Tysen Canevari April 23, 2019 at 8:32 pm

What a mess the whole town is. Remember when Mayor Moccia was solidified in the Republican spot at mayor so Harry changed over to the Democratic side to unseat his good friend. Why even have the party affiliation anymore? Cant we just run on what we believe is right and what we are campaigning to do? It should be a 4 year year term as well so some good people step forward to do this job. No one with a real career wants to step aside to do this job for 2 years and then may be out on the street.

Otto Delupe April 23, 2019 at 9:08 pm

@Ron -every comment from you is bashing Lisa and this PIberman dude. Question- You ever meet either one? I personally don’t know either of them. But I wouldn’t attack them as relentlessly as you do. Heck, The RTC took the time to sit down with Mr Crosland and heard his pitch. Maybe you should try that, you know, just once instead of the same tired beat down non instigated attacks? Learn, evolve, grow.

Mitch Adis April 23, 2019 at 9:09 pm

No sane person with morals gets in to politics. The prerequisites for a politician are – Morals for sale; loyalty to the highest bidder; no conscience and a thick skin. A law degree helps too.

It’s sad that when what you believe is best for the people doesn’t matter. That’s because what will get you elected does. What you believe will get you re-elected ends up mattering most. The people are an obstacle to a politicians self interest.

Jo Bennett April 23, 2019 at 9:12 pm

What Tysen said:
“Why even have the party affiliation anymore? Cant we just run on what we believe is right and what we are campaigning to do?”

Why not?

Thank you, Tysen – from a lifelong Democratic/party-line voter who is tired of partisan nonsense.

Lisa Brinton April 23, 2019 at 9:29 pm

The national trend of political polarization – fueled by social media, talk shows and cable news can be contrasted against 22/30 of the largest US cities, which have non-partisan elections! The ideology of professionalism versus cronyism makes these cities stand out. No R or D way to pave, plow, educate, zone or pick up garbage! Imagine a non-partisan Norwalk! A girl can dream 😎


Rusty Guardrail April 23, 2019 at 9:50 pm

In 20111, Darnell Crossland defended Tanya McDowell. McDowell, a Bridgeport resident who sold dope and brokered prostitutes on Norwalk’s streets, used a false Norwalk address to enroll her 6-year old son in 3 different Norwalk public elementary schools. When found out by Norwalk school officials, NcDowell falsely claimed to be homeless, causing Norwalk to be unfairly condemned nationwide for expelling her son from school.

In Norwalk, the NAACP held a rally in McDowell’s defense, attended by Rev. Al Sharpton who uncharacteristically measured his comments.

Even as Mr. Crossland was speaking in McDowell’s defense, she was recorded 1) selling drugs to an undercover cop on the sidewalk in front of her Bridgeport apartment while her son’s birthday party was in progress inside, and 2) offering to procure hookers for an undercover cop in Marshall’s parking lot in Norwalk.

McDowell was given a 5-year prison sentence, which she served.

Yeah, I know, everyone is entitled to legal representation, but I wouldn’t recommend Mr. Crossland as a mayoral candidate.

Rusty Guardrail April 23, 2019 at 9:51 pm

Correction to the above: McDowell illegally enrolled her son in 2 Norwalk elementary schools, not 3. Thank you.

Victor Cavallo April 23, 2019 at 10:56 pm

Wow. Oh, Rusty: the parade of horribles! The Democrat Rusty knives are out for Darnell. Tells me he’s a real threat to Harry. I smell the despiration and flop-sweat as we speak. Time for fundraising.

Ron Morris April 23, 2019 at 11:08 pm

Otto Delupe
Sorry the facts that post bother you. However you really should be more concerned with the facts and not the messenger.

James Cahn April 24, 2019 at 9:08 am

This is amazing. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for Darnell’s ability to make absolutely everyone highly nervous.

james gallacher April 24, 2019 at 10:04 am

relaying from a friend i shared the article with: “That’s the rub with solid blue ( or red) areas. Dearth of thought. I think crossover can be good and maybe provide some moderation.”

and from another friend: “That’s the best thing I’ve read in awhile.”

these are two republicans saying this.

Why? because the Dems in office here have a stranglehold on everything AND they’re tired (as am i) of listening to the loud polar extremes be the only ones who have a voice at the table when they should be treated as fringe players.

I’m registered ‘R’ and plan to vote for Lisa (whether the local leadership endorses her or not), but i’m glad Marc and the GOP leadership in town get to show everyone that our party is open to listen to new ideas and I for one want to hear what Mr. Crossland has to say.

Every way you slice it this is a good thing.

John ONeill April 24, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Republicans need to start paying attention to the boring races. Not just the Mayoral. We’re sending reps to Hartford who are killing this area. Our reps talk about fiscal responsibility, and then turn around and screw us. The fallacy of Union givebacks are just that — Numbers are changed until a normal person can’t figure them out…

Bob Welsh April 24, 2019 at 7:19 pm

Thank you all for reading and commenting.

A few comments on this thread don’t reflect the writer’s best efforts at civility.

Please keep the comments section respectful and civil.


Tysen Canevari April 24, 2019 at 7:31 pm

The republican leadership in Norwalk is a joke. They are batting .000 In baseball you get put on waivers for that. Instead of sitting in bars talking to Crossland why dont you get out and around town and talk to the people to learn what they want in a mayor. You might be surprised that you can educate yourself a lot. Sitting back and waiting for them to come to you just doesnt work. Be a little proactive!!

Rusty Guardrail April 24, 2019 at 7:51 pm

I’m saying that Mr. Crossland showed poor judgement. His crusading obscured the facts from public view, allowing Norwalk to be unfairly maligned: “Norwalk CT Police Arrest Homeless Mom For Enrolling Son In Public School!”

Rusty Guardrail April 24, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Unfortunately, there were no national follow-up reports such as “‘Homeless’ Mom Revealed To Be Dope-Dealing Pimp With A Bridgeport Address!”

Rusty Guardrail April 25, 2019 at 12:44 am

A lawyer who was willing to falsely sully Norwalk’s reputation in the national media as part of a failed effort to win acquittal for his lying street-thug client would make an inferior Mayoral candidate.

Scott Vetare April 25, 2019 at 8:22 am

Otto, no I’m not talking about our President! He actually proves my point isn’t 100% accurate! But we really need to watch out for party jumpers! Trump 2020! 🙂

Bob Welsh April 25, 2019 at 4:17 pm

I’ve deleted six comments which did not reflect the writer’s best possible effort at civility.

Patrick Cooper April 25, 2019 at 4:45 pm

@Bob Welsh – given how partisan politics whip-up strong emotions, I know many are grateful for NoN-providing a “safe-space” for commentary. Feelings are critical to opinions.

As I said before, Butter’s would be proud, but sorry you had to be the filter. I doubt when you signed up the job description said, “veritable sewage treatment filter for Norwalk’s political debate”. Febreze, perhaps?

Bob Welsh April 25, 2019 at 9:39 pm


Your sense of humor is appreciated.

If by “safe space” you mean a place where people may civilly and respectfully opine on local matters, then yes, that’s what we’re providing.

It’s really unfortunate when commenters put time and thought into their comments, only to undermine all that effort and get deleted for incivility or other policy violations.


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