Updated 11:26 p.m.: Warren Peña nominated King. Updated, 2:10 p.m.: Comments from Ed Camacho
NORWALK, Conn. – A new leader was chosen to take the helm of the Democratic Town Committee Monday night in a split vote that may have inflamed racial tensions.
District B DTC member Edwin Camacho, a DTC newcomer, and former DTC Vice Chairwoman Brenda Penn-Williams competed to succeed Chairwoman Amanda Brown at the DTC meeting Monday night, with Camacho winning on the third vote, according to witnesses. The first two votes were tied 17-17. District A DTC member Steve Serasis came in late, abstained on the second vote and then swung it to Camacho on the last vote, sources say.
At that point, a source said, Penn-Williams and all the other African-Americans walked out. They congregated outside, expressing anger and disappointment, said the source, who requested anonymity.
It was disappointing when they all walked out, Camacho said Tuesday afternoon. “We obviously need to bring the party together as a result of this vote. It’s been perceived by some people as something that is not always heading in a positive direction.”
Camacho, an attorney who had served on the Fair Housing Advisory Commission, campaigned for Mayor Harry Rilling in the fall election. He was subsequently named to the Board of Estimate and Taxation.
After Camacho was elected DTC chairman, someone nominated Penn-Williams for vice chairman, and Carolyn Fuller was then nominated, according to the source. But both had left.
Newcomer Dwain Omar King, a David Watts protege, was nominated for vice chairman by Warren Peña, a source said. Someone threw Mike Mushak’s hat in the ring – literally – but Mushak declined. King was elected.
Krysten White was elected secretary, Peña said.
Penn-Williams’ speech prior to the vote concentrated on what she had done for the African-American community, a source said. Camacho talked about his background – he grew up grew up in Harlem near 125th Street – and about the need to heal, in general terms, according to a participant. Every district should participate in the DTC, he said, according to the source.
Camacho continued the healing theme Tuesday in the context of the “number of community leaders” who walked out.
“There are a number of people that don’t know me and that’s understandable,” he said. “I think over time as we move forward and build and rebuild the party, including its infrastructure, the website, revise the bylaws, as we begin to take action steps in a positive direction I think people will want to be a part of that. It will take care of itself. But beyond that I’ve got reaching out to do and in essence mending the fences, which I intend to do.”
Camacho is a criminal defense lawyer with more than 30 years experience, according to EcamLaw.com.
“Early in his career, Attorney Camacho was staff counsel with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., a civil rights litigation firm in New York City and Phoenix Legal Services, Phoenix, AZ,” the website states. “Thereafter, he served as Senior Counsel, and later Administrative Judge for the New York State Division of Parole, in Albany, NY. He’s served as the managing partner of Hunter & Associates, an insurance defense firm in New York City. Most recently, from 2003 to 2007, he practiced with Ventura, Ribeiro & Smith, a plaintiff’s personal injury firm in Danbury, CT, for whom he continues to serve as Of Counsel. Camacho’s litigation and trial experience includes family law, personal injury and medical malpractice litigation, commercial litigation, criminal defense and appellate practice.”
“I don’t expect to do all the heavy lifting myself,” Camacho said Tuesday. “I don’t expect that anyone with a full time job would be able to or anyone would want to. I think there are enough people in the Democratic party, there’s enough talent, energy, interest that it’s going to be a team effort. I don’t think one person not having a lot of time on their hands is going to be an impediment.”
Peña thanked Penn-Williams for her years of service as vice chairwoman.
“It was a close vote and I’d like to congratulate Edwin Camacho and Dwain King,” Peña said in an email. “The NDTC will look to move forward in a new direction with fresh perspectives. Both Ed and Dwain are brand new to the party which is exciting. I look forward to working with them as I know they are men that are ready to roll up their sleeves to put Norwalk’s interest first.
“I would hope that the entire party would rally behind Ed to support him in this new roll. We need to make sure he has all the proper tools to do the job effectively.”
Penn-Williams declined to comment.