Crosland makes it official, files papers to run for Norwalk Mayor

Former Norwalk Branch NAACP President Darnell Crosland speaks to the Republican Town Committee on May 20, in the Norwalk Inn.
The election is Nov. 5.

NORWALK, Conn. — Newly minted Republican Darnell Crosland, a disillusioned ex-Democrat, has made good on his promise to file papers for a Norwalk mayoral run.

Crosland on Saturday charged that incumbent Democratic Mayor Harry Rilling is “very emotional and controlling,” while unaffiliated Mayoral hopeful Lisa Brinton “lacks temperament” for the job. Rilling and Brinton declined to respond to that specific comment.

Rilling is seeking a fourth 2-year term. Brinton and Crosland are vying for the Norwalk Republican Town Committee endorsement; for Brinton, that would be a cross endorsement.  The Town Committee will make its endorsement at its July nominating convention, RTC Vice Chair Liz Lyons said last week.


It’s a go for a July endorsement, state official says

Norwalk Republicans are free to endorse Crosland, Gabe Rosenberg, Communications Director for Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said, despite Brinton campaign treasurer Bryan Meek’s assertion that they cannot.

Crosland “is not legally eligible for the RTC’s endorsement per state statute,” because Crosland switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican less than 90 days before the convention, Meek, a Republican, charged on social media.

“A three way race for Mayor will guarantee a 4th term for the incumbent. Personal ambitions need to be put aside and teamwork needs to be forged locally…. You need to be registered a certain way for 90 days prior to convention. It’s state law,” Meek wrote on May 18.

“Unless the state or party local rules say otherwise, a political party can endorse the candidate of their choosing regardless of that candidate’s party affiliation at the convention or caucus,” Rosenberg wrote Wednesday.

“That said, a candidate could not take out primary petitions (or vote in the primary or in a caucus) until their party privileges attached 3 months after they changed their registration,” Rosenberg continued.

Crosland switched party affiliation on April 30. He will pass the 90-day mark on July 29.


Brinton and Rilling comment

Crosland in mid-April promised to file papers to run for Mayor. The papers were filed Friday, he said that evening, providing a text image to prove it.

Rilling wrote Sunday that he’s focused on Norwalk.  “I’m proud of what my administration has accomplished. I hope the campaign will be based on issues important to our community and our residents.”

Brinton in a Saturday email said:

“Voters and property owners are especially tired of the tribal political nonsense, when faced with the state’s economic uncertainty. There is no R or D way to run Norwalk. Well run cities focus on fair and efficient service delivery, keeping taxes in check, and promoting practices that drive economic development and quality of life for everyone, not just the few.
“Darnell needs to demonstrate his grasp of local matters and offer solutions, while the mayor needs to explain how his actions have helped Norwalk these past six years.
“Our campaign looks forward to engaging in no nonsense straight talk with both of them, based on economic fact, not half truths or partisan hyperbole.
“Voters want a mayor who’ll put Norwalk first, instead of self promoting, insider politics, personal vendettas or a fake, partisan grudge match between two members of the same party.”


Crosland: leadership needed to address BoE ‘personality issues’

Crosland, an attorney, in an April 30 interview with NancyOnNorwalk said that if elected, on day one he’d put together a “strong financial team” that “understands budgets” because “we can’t spend more than we have.”

The City under Rilling is investing a historically large amount of capital budget funds to build new schools and renovate or repair existing buildings. Tax bills are dropping in every area except the Third Taxing district. The 2019-20 budget includes a $6 million draw down from the general fund balance, or Rainy Day Fund, which is projected to remain at $51.7 million.

Second, “We have huge problem with the Board of Education. It needs to be fixed,” said Crosland, former Norwalk NAACP President.

NAACP members have called for Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis to resign because Barbis urged BoE members not to attend the NAACP’s annual scholarship fundraising dinner in October. Barbis said he would meet with NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams but on March 12, in an email obtained by NancyOnNorwalk, told Rilling he was no longer interested due to comments made by the Rev. Lindsay Curtis.

Rilling on April 9 said he was hoping to get the parties together after a “cooling off period.”

“There are so many issues surrounding personality with the leadership of the Board of Ed,” Crosland said on April 30. “We can’t have personalities trump the quality of education that our children get, period. That has to stop. I think the Mayor is not doing a good enough job… I will be the first to address personality issues. Get these people the sensitivity training, just find out a way to alleviate personalities because if personality conflicts exist our kids are going to suffer.”

Rilling on May 2 wrote:

“The members of the Board of Education are elected public servants who can speak for themselves but I have been actively involved in trying to resolve recent challenges. As mayor my focus is not on the personalities or politics but rather on improving outcomes for the students of Norwalk. Together we have made significant progress towards our goal of providing a world-class education for Norwalk’s youth.

“Through historic increases in funding for the Board’s Strategic Plan to building new and improved schools my administration is fully committed to education in Norwalk and has been fully involved in every aspect of the process.”


Crosland: ‘He looked at you as a jealous mistress’

“I have always wanted to run for Mayor, before I became NAACP President,” Crosland said on April 30.

Crosland ran for Judge of Probate last year. The Democratic Town Committee did not endorse him, and he lost a subsequent primary to endorsed candidate Attorney Doug Stern, who went on to win the election.

When Rilling first ran for Mayor in 2013, “I told him, start a mentorship program for those coming up behind that have interest in running for Mayor, and being involved in city government,” Crosland said. “… I think he really turned his back to me, if you weren’t serving his purposes, then he had really no use for you. When it came around to election time, you’d better not be caught speaking to (former Republican Common Council President Jerry) Petrini or anybody else that he took as an adversary, he looked at you as a jealous mistress.”

Rilling on May 2 wrote:

“First of all, I have no idea with who Darnell may have had that conversation or to who he made that offer, but it certainly wasn’t me. I guess it’s very easy to make statements and comments that can’t be verified.

“Moreover since being elected, I have had many conversations with Mr. Petrini and other friends on the Republican Party. That is how we conduct business in the city of Norwalk.

“My door is, and always has been open to any Norwalk resident who wants to be involved. Darnell has never once visited my office in the five years that I have been in office. I’ve ushered in many bright new leaders to my administrative staff and appointed many qualified and professional Norwalk residents to boards and commissions. I have and always will welcome all residents to join me in answering the call of public service.”



Crosland in Vietnam

Crosland on Thursday wrote that he was in Vietnam, after spending two days in Istanbul. He is assisting clients who design shoes and are moving their factory from China to Vietnam, and would be heading to Bangkok, he said.

“I’m out of the country as we speak, and CNN here is not the CNN at home.  Africa and other market places have encouraged me to strive for more.  To not be closed off to opportunity.  That’s the energy we must have in our city,” he wrote.

“One candidate lacks the temperament, the other is very emotional and controlling,” Crosland wrote. “If he sees you speaking to a person he feels doesn’t support him he closes off all talks and that can’t be good for our city.  We must be above emotional stances.  We have a global city to run.  Let’s make SONO a global attraction.”

Again, Brinton and Rilling declined to respond to that comment.



Tonya McDowell, Candace Owens

Crosland in April mentioned that he’s been influenced by conservative commentator Candace Owens, who he represented years ago.

“Owens, who is African American, has built her national media presence praising Trump as the best president for Black America and dismissing the Black Lives Matter movement, as a group pretending to be oppressed,” the Connecticut Post reports.

It’s been reported that Owens said, “racism is over.”

“Stop selling us our own oppression,” Owens said March 3 at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “Stop taking away our self-confidence by telling us that we can’t because of racism, because of slavery. I’ve never been a slave in this country. Stop telling us that we need to be obsessing over our past when we should be obsessing over our future and the potential that we have.”

“I can’t really respond to one thing she says. As she always says, you have to have things in context,” Crosland said on April 30. “…Racial injustice still exists.”

He met Owens when she was jumped by four white girls in Stamford and he was on the NAACP Legal Redress Committee, he said.

Some readers are mentioning Crosland’s representation of Tonya McDowell, who brought national attention to Norwalk when she was arrested in 2011 and charged with larceny for sending her son to Norwalk Public Schools. She was eventually convicted on drug charges and sent to prison for five years.

“Though she was released from prison two years early, she still faces three years of probation and owes the city of Norwalk roughly $6,500 in back-tuition,” Hearst wrote in 2017.

Crosland on April 30 said that the City had in a recent hearing agreed to terminate McDowell’s probation early and did not seek restitution for the education her son received while in Norwalk Public Schools. She had been held on $25,000 bond on the initial larceny charge, he said.

“I think the bond was extremely high, it started as an education issue for her kid,” he said. “I think I am glad that Norwalk last week joined us in a motion to shorten her probation and sought no further restitution. I think education still remains to be a priority and equal access to education still remains to be a priority.”


Crosland touts credentials; former mayors opine

On April 30, Crosland commented, “I do believe that people will question whether in fact I can be a mayor.” Former Mayor Richard Moccia was a process server before getting elected, and Rilling was police chief, he said.

Moccia worked at Nash Engineering’s international division from 1967-88, he said in a Sunday email, explaining, “I was manager of Commercial Services, which entailed me the handling of financial transactions. Including dealings with many financial institutions.  In addition to coordinating worldwide orders for Nash equipment. Also did traveling abroad to our various plants on Europe.”

Moccia’s resume includes stints on the Common Council and a long stretch as Republican Town Committee chairman. He is a former Constable, City Sheriff and Connecticut State Marshal, was a member of the Republican State Central Committee and before he was Mayor, was on the Fair Rent Commission and the Fire Commission.

“He ran the city, a lot of people will say he did a good job,” Crosland said.

“There’s no possibility that a legally trained attorney, whether he’s criminal, family, worker’s comp, cannot become a Mayor if a police chief and a process server could become a mayor,” he said. “Not to disparage any of them, but we look at AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) in New York, who was a bartender and now is turning Congress on its head. Intelligent, outspoken, and so why would people look at me and say ‘I do criminal defense and therefore I can’t be a Mayor’?”

“I am not sure if anyone said Darnell was not qualified,” Moccia wrote. “Norwalk has had several lawyers who served a Mayor.  I would however question his judgment, if he thinks AOC is turning Congress on its head.  This is a person who thinks growing cauliflower is colonial, and  basically saying it is racist.  Also frightened by a garbage disposal as she did not know what it was.  In my opinion the question about Darnell is not his qualifications, it is his temperament  and judgment.  But here is my caveat, I am no longer a resident of Norwalk, so some could question my right to comment on potential candidates.   But as he mentioned me, I guess my comments are appropriate.”

Crosland said he was on the Stamford homeless shelter Board for seven years and on a Norwalk methadone clinic Board for three years, and both roles included hiring and budget decisions, he said.

“I know how to follow an agenda, I know how to open a meeting, close a meeting, I’ll bring my will to bear on the agenda items. Then the rest is for the people of Norwalk, so there is nothing about me that says I can’t do this job,” he said.

Crosland took shots at Rilling’s “three pensions” and asserted that he’s not in it for financial gain.

“It’s a pay cut,” he wrote Saturday. “I’m not looking to retire from the Office of Mayor.  I look to do as Bloomberg did for NY, change the course, make us healthier, make a way for us to find happiness, and wake up my city and it’s true diversity, starting with the face of diversity, our Mayor’s Office.”

It’s two pensions from the city, according to NancyOnNorwalk’s records. Rilling receives about $86,000 per year from his role as police chief, then-Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton said in 2013. Rilling is fully vested in a 401A plan as Mayor because he is more than 65 years old, Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney said  in 2017.

Crosland will stop practicing law if he wins, he said. “I just purchased a commercial space in Stamford and I will be renting office space.  My main focus will be on learning to run a city.”

“I have been trained to problem solve, to figure out complex problems, and I will be bringing that set of skills to a team of people whom together with my advisory boards will move this city along,” he wrote, promising that John Brittain, “who while not physically in Norwalk cares for this city and has done amazing work for our spirit here in this city,” and Kelly Holloway will be on his team.

He will lean on former Mayors Alex Knopp and Bill Collins, he said.

“Of course I’m flattered by Mr. Crosland’s kind remarks and I’m always happy to offer the experience of slings and arrows to any mayor for the benefit of the city,” Collins wrote Saturday. “He did not ask for help in the election which also shows maturity and wisdom on his part.”

Knopp wrote, “I’m supporting Harry Rilling for re-election and hope that Mr. Crosland will seek to put his talents to use for the community in a different capacity.”


‘A new day’

Crosland said his campaign’s slogan is “a new day,” because “I think a new day has come. I think a lot of the old ideas are just that, old ideas.”

Rilling was quoted in The Hour as saying he’s “a bit surprised” that Crosland is running, and Crosland has seized on that comment.

“While he is surprised, others in this race think that Harry has colluded with me to stop {Brinton} from coming in second place. Well, the Crosland campaign is focused on a diversity of ideas and people, and not in second place,” Crosland wrote Monday.

“I have met so many leaders here this week in Vietnam from all over the world,” Crosland wrote. “People have a way of connecting with me. The growth potential for Norwalk is there. I am inviting businesses from Asia to start a sister city relationship with Norwalk. … I will not be able to run Norwalk alone and I don’t intend to. I don’t intend to replace all the good men and women at city hall currently, but we will make changes.”


24 responses to “Crosland makes it official, files papers to run for Norwalk Mayor”

  1. Mitch Adis

    So many reason not to vote for this person. Why would the Republicans support him is a mystery. Only logical explanation is they like Rilling as Mayor.

  2. Stuart Wells

    “That said, a candidate could not take out primary petitions (or vote in the primary or in a caucus) until their party privileges attached 3 months after they changed their registration,” Rosenberg continued.
    Crosland switched party affiliation on April 30. He will pass the 90-day mark on July 29.
    A tiny correction — Three months is NOT the same as 90 days, depending on the months involved. Three months is correct per CT statute Sec. 9-59

  3. DrewT

    @mitch The Majority of the Republicans are NOT. Supporting him for Mayor. We welcome him our party with open arms and look forward for him to be an active member of the RTC. We will
    Be endorsing Lisa Briton for Mayor at our convention in July. She is very qualified and has worked incredibly hard to deserve our endorsement. I and the majority of the RTC will be very happy having her as our endorsed candidate. And we are hopeful that Darnell doesn’t attempt to have us make a Primary and waste a bunch of money and create a divide in the RTC.

  4. James Cahn

    Crosland will focus on “learning how to run a city?” Well, we can’t fault the guy for embracing the culture of Norwalk’s “Experimental School for Municipal Government.”

    At the risk of distracting everyone from the sideshow of “party rooting,” which of these candidates has a SPECIFIC, ARTICULABLE plan for lowering or even maintaining my tax bill for a defined period of time? Barring that, which one has a SPECIFIC, ARTICULABLE plan for making the value of my property rise significantly enough that I won’t mind the associated tax bill?

    If they don’t have this plan, when will they commit to providing it (with supporting analysis) or saying that they have no intention of development of it?

  5. Kevin Kane

    James Cahn – you should start by asking those EXACT questions of the current mayor(s) so that ALL 3 plans can be compared prior to voting.

  6. Piberman

    None of the candidates are promising to lower taxes or reduce the City budget through professional management. So we all know Norwalk’s problematic future as a transient “renters city”. Norwalk has never had Mayor with business management skills appropriate to overseeing a $350 million budget.
    We pay the price in punitive taxes and a transient City where few ever retire.

  7. James Cahn

    @kevin good point. For clarity, I consider the incumbent a candidate, as well. Nobody is exempt.

  8. Rusty Guardrail

    This man is a dangerously divisive opportunist masquerading as a legitimate candidate. Lisa needs to take off the gloves and confront him NOW. Confront his nonsense head-on, because once he dupes a handful of voters into supporting him, Rilling will win by default.

    1. Bob Welsh

      I have deleted a comment because it included a “bleeped” expletive. The comment policy bars expletives in hopes of raising the level of discourse. Including bleeped expletives is not consistent with that goal. Thanks to all for understanding.

  9. Piberman

    Why be mean spirited. Looking back over 4 or 5 decades Norwalk has had a bewildering variety of Mayoral candidates. Even including musicians and City employees. Once elected none of our “people’s Mayors” has stood head and shoulders above the others. And the campaigns are never taken seriously.
    No one ever promises lower taxes or creating a real Downtown with good jobs that we’d be proud of.
    So if Attorney Crossland wants to run lets encourage him to do his best. Everyone knows that Norwalk’s Mayors are never well qualified to over see a City with almost 90,000 with a $350 million budget. Nor are Norwalk Mayors ever considered for Governor.

    Once upon a time our Mayors were part timers paid a mere pittance. Now they get a fancy $150k salary [ same as the Governor – with a fancy pension as our “Chief Politician”. And when they leave office they always retire. Except for former Mayor Knopp who found a new career afterwards.

    Norwalk really only had just one Mayor who was “Norwalk’s Mayor”. Mayor Esposito literally knew everyone, was genuinely nice, didn’t talk behind backs, didn’t make nasty telephone calls and loved being Mayor. He also understood the importance of keeping taxes as low as possible. And “gave the orders” to make that happen. Those were good times for Norwalk when it truly was CT’s “Greatest City” and houses sold as soon as they were put on the market.

  10. Victor Cavallo

    Is not this irony rich?

    My RTC is bewitched, bothered and bewildered over which former Democrat – a DEMOCRAT- should represent the REPUBLICAN party in the upcoming election for mayor.

    And our choices are whether to endorse a former Democrat who is ashamed to be identified as a Republican, and a former Democrat who proudly steps up, identifies himself as a Republican and embraces the mission of the RTC: to elect Republican candidates.

    And the ranking personages who vie for the Democrat who is ashamed of identifying as a Republican – well… they declare that “our brand is dead.”

    So, oy vey, I’m verklempt beyond consolation. What to do; what to do??

  11. Non Partisan

    Isn’t he responsible for the NAACP suit that gave us the local fair housing tzar?

  12. Bryan Meek

    @Victor. Vote for the Independent who gets basic math and the electorate that has no appetite for a pure R in this neck of the woods any longer. It’s not embarrassment, it’s just math Victor.

  13. Victor Cavallo

    If, as it is being prognosticated, having the letter “R” associated with one’s candidacy is the kiss of death “in this neck of the woods”, the logical conclusion is that the RTC should endorse NO ONE for the office of mayor; this for the sake of humanity, it seems. It also might strategically solve other problems as well.

  14. Danny

    I honestly wouldn’t trust his man, even if his tongue came notarized. Sorry, but being honest and it’s my opinion. This is a sure win for Rilling!

  15. Bryan Meek

    @VC. How does one get on Harry’s speed dial?

  16. Tysen Canevari

    Mr Crossland knows he doesnt stand a chance. However, it is a great way to advertise his law practice. It will be interesting to see if The Republican Party decides to endorse him as their candidate.

  17. Ron Morris

    Anyone but Lisa.
    Her campaign is only about what Harry is doing wrong and not what she will do better. I dare anyone to find one specific of what she will do to improve Norwalk. She only has vage talking points.

  18. Davina McDonald

    I am really impressed that people like Atty. Crosland has the heart to stay involved in his community and deal with the nasty, often racist, attacks that he often gets. The racism against this man is sickening. When he ran for Judge of Probate, he got NO support from the leaders of the Democratic Party. Let’s not forget that he almost won – with NO support from the Democrats – coming in 10,000 votes to Tony’s 12,000 votes; raising $20,000 but only spending $14,000 when Tony raised and spent all of his $60,000. Even Tony said on YouTube it was his hardest race YET. And people are still giving Atty. Crosland a hard time? GIVE HIM A BREAK.

    What do you expect a man to do when he keeps trying to get support from the Democratic Party but they continuously support a white man??

    Atty. Crosland reminds me of the greats in history who kept fighting despite all of the hateful things that people say about him – such as being self promoting or not qualified. What if Thurgood Marshall gave up, where we would be today? No matter what happens here, Atty. Crosland, a kid from a minority community and background who stands up to this system which seems to be against him, is more impressive to me than the privileged few who are always up their usual tricks. We need someone new as Mayor! And I fully support Atty. Crosland because I know he will fight for the people in Norwalk.

  19. DrewT

    @Tysen He will never be endorsed by the RTC. We will be proudly endorsing Lisa Briton the NEXT Mayor of Norwalk. And if anyone really thinks we shouldn’t be endorsing any candidate couldn’t be more wrong. Not only should we endorse the BEST Candidate but we should stand behind her 100% and do the work to get them elected.

  20. DT

    Lisa, please officially switch to an “R”……make it a clean two-person race. It’s Norwalk’s only chance to get rid of Rilling.

  21. Tysen Canevari

    Maybe Lisa should tell us what her platform is?

  22. Tysen Canevari

    @Drew How come she wont register as a republican then?

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