Updated 12:23 p.m.: More information.
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Republicans in a contentious vote Monday endorsed unaffliated hopeful Lisa Brinton as their Mayoral candidate – an unprecedented move.
Newly-minted Republican candidate Darnell Crosland said he will get the signatures he needs to force a primary and challenge Brinton for the endorsement.
“The Republicans really need to be commended for coming out here and endorsing an unaffiliated candidate. That’s actually quite revolutionary,” Brinton said afterwards.
Video by Harold Cobin at end of story
Brinton’s been courting the Republican Town Committee for two years, Crosland commented.
“We know that we have a love affair that we now have to get in the middle of. That’s fine, we have a lot of roses to give throughout the upcoming election season, and we’ll court a lot of people,” Crosland said. “I think a lot of people are going to be in love with our candidacy and we’re the right people for the job.”
Brinton won 36 of the 51 Republican Town Committee votes cast. Crosland received nine votes, while six Republicans voted to have no candidate. The RTC has 80 members.
Crosland, a lifelong Democrat who was spurned last year in his attempt to become Judge of Probate, registered as a Republican in late April. Brinton ran for Mayor two years ago in a four-way race, coming in second to Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling with 22.4% of the vote, ahead of Republican candidate Andy Conroy’s 15.2% of the vote.
Democrats won 14 of 15 Common Council seats in that race and all four Board of Education seats.
Monday’s nominating process exposed Norwalk Republican fault lines, revealing arguments along a deep philosophical divide, that have gone on for months.
Former State Senate candidate Marc D’Amelio, who recruited Crosland into the Republican Party, held up RTC bylaws and said that the goal is to encourage Republican candidates.
“Who fits this bill better? Someone who feels she cannot win as a Republican? Someone believes a Republican banner is a liability? … Or somebody like Darnell Crosland?” D’Amelio asked.
Crosland will open the party to younger people, he said, emphasizing that he loves Brinton it’s the Republican Town Committee.
“We have all been in that situation in life where we have made an effort to commit to someone and for whatever reason that person doesn’t want to reciprocate, they’re not willing to commit now. They’re not going to commit tomorrow. Why would Lisa buy the cow for giving her the milk for free?” D’Amelio said.
D’Amelio referred to the “shellacking” in 2017 and to last year’s Democratic domination, when incumbent State Rep. Fred Wilms lost his seat, former State Rep. Larry Cafero lost to “political neophyte” Doug Stern in the Judge of Probate race. If Wilms were willing to run for Mayor, Crosland and Brinton would be none issues, he said.
“Look, the Norwalk RTC has problems. We’re old stale and tired. Our new ideas are few and far between. We lack imagination, community outreach, and unlike Democrats, we have alienated our young members,” D’Amelio said. “If we’re really going to change the city, we need to think outside the box and embrace new ideas with Darnell Crosland as Mayor. If you think Lisa Brinton is the answer for our party, I say you were wrong.”
Republican State Central Committee member Kelly Straniti seconded the call for Crosland, asserting that there was new energy at Crosland’s campaign kickoff Friday. Ernie DesRochers nominated Brinton.
“Some if you feel very strongly that we should not endorse Lisa because she’s not a registered Republican,” DesRochers said. “However, given the special circumstances that currently exists, there are many of us who believe that party affiliation should not be the central reason of why we give our support to a candidate that we endorse for Mayor.”
Wilms and Board of Education member Mike Lyons think Brinton represents the best chance for victory, he said.
“As an unaffiliated candidate two years ago, Lisa did far better than veteran politicians and the community expected as she finished second in a four-person race… A strong showing by Lisa maximizes our chances of picking up crucial Common Council and Board of Ed seats, not to mention surely needed appointments to the various boards and commissions that make up our city government,” DesRochers said.
“I’m glad Marc pointed out what happened two years ago, because a three way race and you’re all going down again,” John Tobin said. “Lisa is the one that can help bring this ticket to victory, I believe. She is also a strong campaigner. Hope you all listened very carefully to the nominating speech from Mr. Crosland because there wasn’t one word about what he would do as Mayor. Not one, it was all about a tired old Republican Party.”
“Tonight quite simply is a game changer,” Brinton said, accepting the endorsement. “With your vote, you have made it underdogs to win. You have made it possible for a new Mayor to be elected.”
“This summer, I have knocked on thousands of doors in Norwalk and all but one expressed either nervousness, frustration or outright dissatisfaction with the current administration. And that was all parties, all affiliations,” Brinton said. “Why? Because our state is in financial trouble. People are leaving, and while Norwalk has seeing growth, it’s come without sufficient tax revenue or state support, and it’s negatively impacting our quality of life.”
Brinton cited increased density, flooding issues, traffic, “POKO” and overcrowded schools.
“Homeowners have seen their taxes skyrocket, while property value stagnant and or expected to go down. They feel helpless. This administration has increased spending by $70 million while giving away millions in tax breaks to large developments,” Brinton said.
Brinton called the creation of a communications manager “irresponsible,” saying it replaced the grant writing position, and, “We used to have a healthy homeowner-rental ratio of 70/30 it’s now shifted to 50/50. Aside from the fortress apartments, once tranquil neighborhoods are littered with cars and satellite dishes, little has been done to help existing residents or small businesses mitigate the unintended consequences and city costs of a more dense and transient population.”
“With these messages, and our alliance and hard work, I’m confident there’s a path to victory for everyone in this room that’s running for office, and I’m will fight for every single one of you,” Brinton said. “Please don’t stand on the sidelines, those of you who are disappointed that I’m not a Republican, join us as we campaign because we will win. And the biggest thing we need to do is to keep Harry Rilling and a single party rule in this State and the city… it is our city and it’s our future.”
Afterwards, Brinton said she was “humbled” by the win.
“This is a lot different running with a major party backing and a coalition,” she said. “… I firmly believe a coalition is what we need to do to bring all of Norwalk together regardless of party affiliation.”
She declined to comment on Crosland’s threat of a primary.
“We are really on a precipice,” she said, calling the Republican slate of candidates “great,” with “genuine expertise” in city government, which is needed because, “We have experienced a lot of growth and we need expertise on the Council to start looking after Norwalk residents.”