NORWALK, Conn. — It will be an unusual primary Tuesday in Norwalk, as it’s been years since District C voters were asked to decide who’d be on November’s ballot as a Democratic Common Council candidate. If ever.
That’s the only race being decided; recent primary votes have either been city-wide races or in other districts, so it’s difficult for political operatives to formulate strategy and predict what will happen, as ordinarily they’d use numbers from a previous primary.
While it might seem obvious that incumbent John Kydes has a leg up given his established ability to get votes and line up a power base, recent facts indicate that much of his support is from the Republican side of the aisle. Those people can’t cast votes Tuesday; his unaffiliated folks might, if they’ve changed their status in time.
Kydes and Oak Hills Park Authority member Jennifer McAllister won the Democratic Town Committee endorsement in July; newcomers Tyler Fairbairn and Jenn McMurrer say they felt their neighbors and fellow parents were not being heard and worked to secure enough signatures to force a primary.
McMurrer and Fairbairn criticize Kydes for leading a $1 million cut to the planned budget this year, money that came out of the schools’ budget.
“The facts can’t be ignored! The Board of Education has received the highest budget increases in the state nearly every year John Kydes has been on the Council,” the Kydes campaign said in a Facebook post.
In recent years, Norwalk primaries have seemed a fruitless endeavor, as the challengers haven’t succeeded in unseating the candidates who won their party’s endorsement. But it does happen: in 2014, Fred Wilms took the Republican District 142 State Representative endorsement from Emily Wilson. Also in that year, Karen Doyle Lyons held off a challenge from John Federici, who had been recruited by Republican leadership seeking to replace her as registrar of voters and been endorsed by the Republican Town Committee vote.
Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells hesitated to estimate the cost of Tuesday’s primary, saying the bills haven’t come in yet. He wrote:
“I don’t want to make ‘guesses’ from prior years’ information because the cost of things like ballots are greater, per ballot, in the small quantities we order for a primary like this — basically, there are still design charges, but no volume discounts. The same is true for set up of the handicap ballot marking system, transportation of the equipment to the polling places, etc. We will use up some supplies – things like PPE for the poll workers, office type supplies at the polls, and so forth, but these will come from existing inventory and it would be difficult to give an accurate cost number.
“That being said, election workers (poll workers, absentee ballot counters, office staff over time, likely recount officials) should total about $4,000 as they generally work the same hours as in a November election — the polls are open 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in both cases. (A recount is likely as this is triggered by a difference in vote totals of 1/2 of 1% OR a difference of 20 votes or less and often happens in typically low turnout primary like this.)
“All the other costs will probably add up to something like $4,000 to $6,000. That would mean about $8,000 to $10,000 overall for the primary – hopefully closer to $8,000. So I guess I am giving you my guess even though I said I didn’t want to guess.”
Interest might be light. As of mid-Friday afternoon, the number of people requesting absentee ballots hadn’t hit double digits yet, Wells said.
While Kydes clearly has more followers, many of the comments are critical. Kydes has, under a City logo, posted a list of what he says are his “accomplishments in East Norwalk as a Councilman.” Many appear to be items he voted on, as part of a block of Council members, not issues he took a lead on, and his assertion that he opposed the application for a distribution center in Norden Place inspired pushback.
“East Norwalk residents and their community group pushed back hard on the 10 Norden Place applicant with a petition, emails in opposition, protests and public comments to the applicant. Their hard fight was the accomplishment. Please give credit where credit is due,” Mimi Chang replied.
Kydes spoke out against the Norden project as a private citizen, as he could not comment on pending zoning applications as a member of the Common Council, he said at the time.
Kydes is also running for Mayor in 2023. In July, NancyOnNorwalk asked Wells for the party affiliations of the contributors to Kydes mayoral campaign. More of them were Republican than Democrat.
- 18 Republicans
- 13 Democrats
- 18 Unaffiliated
- Three independents
“This is a Democratic primary and, per party rules, only Democrats may vote,” Wells explained. “There is no Election Day Registration in a primary, but voters may switch their party enrollment from ‘Unaffiliated’ to ‘Democratic’ up to Noon on Monday September 13, 2021 and new voters may register and join the party up to that same time — But they must do so IN PERSON at the Registrars office, room 103, Norwalk City Hall, 125 East Avenue. It is too late to register, or change registration on line, or by mail for this primary.”
Kydes was recently accused of being a Republican before he became a Democrat. That’s not quite true, according to Wells; Kydes was unaffiliated from 2003 to Feb. 27, 2013, when he was a Republican for a few hours before becoming unaffiliated again – a possible error, Wells said. He became a Democrat on March 1, 2013.
Kydes sought the Republican endorsement when he first sought a Council seat before going Democrat, according to Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano.
When was the last time there was a Council primary in C?
“Can’t remember any council primaries in Dist. C, but as you know very seldom does anyone bother to primary in any district,” former Mayor Bill Collins said. “A little competition is usually good for the system, and since these challengers don’t seem fascist or racist it may be a healthy race. It would be nice to see candidates from either party who actually have some ideas for change.”