NORWALK, Conn. – The time has come to put that nasty primary behind them, Norwalk Democrats say, pulling together in a Tuesday afternoon show of solidarity that was nonetheless missing two of the men who fought against former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling in vying to be the next mayor of Norwalk.
District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, the Democrat who came closest to Rilling in the September primary, stood alongside Rilling outside the Family Diner on Main Street. The absence of Andy Garfunkel and Matt Miklave was attributed to work schedules, something that Miklave confirmed later.
Rilling said the primary has resulted in a better Norwalk.
“We had some wonderful, wonderful discussions and debates and opportunities to present platforms,” he said. “Those platforms are going to be brought together. One platform has certain components, another has others, you take the best of all those platforms and you put them into one solid platform, you can’t help but get excited about what’s going to happen in Norwalk.”
State Sen. Bob Duff, state Rep. Chris Perone, former Mayor Bill Collins, eight Common Council candidates, two Board of Education candidates, and three former chairpersons of the Democratic Town Committee also joined Rilling for the press conference.
“Our message here today is the primary is over,” Duff said. “We are here as one party, speaking with one voice, for a better community. … We have lots of talent here behind me who are going to be working hard for our city.”
“Take a look at the diversity of the people standing here today,” Rilling said. “We’ve got men and women, we’ve got people from different ethnic backgrounds, we’ve got some of the people with the institutional knowledge. We’ve got young people who bring in energy and drive and new young people to the party. So this party is going to be around for a very, very, very long time.”
People from all parts of the party are pulling together and working at Rilling’s campaign headquarters, Collins said.
Rilling was very deferential to Mangiacopra, who he called “a rising star” and a “future long-term leader in this community.”
Mangiacopra expressed “deep admiration” for Rilling’s service to the community. Rilling was a Norwalk police officer for 41 years and police chief for 17 years.
“This is important for everybody to know that the Democratic ticket is united behind my friend Harry Rilling,” he said.
He went on to remind everyone of recent history, the reasons not to vote for Republican incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia, including the $4 million shortfall in the Board of Education insurance accounts last year and “the lack of stability that has existed for eight years in the school system (that) has done nothing but hurt our kids.”
It is also important to vote for the Democratic under-ticket, he said, reminding voters that Democrats won the majority on the council last time only to have three defections to the Republican caucus.
Democrats are different this time around, he said.
“The Democratic candidates are different from the Republicans because they’re staying positive while the Republicans are getting down in the gutter every chance that they get,” Mangiacopra said. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to work on behalf of the Democratic ticket. We’re going to get Harry elected to be the next mayor of our city and the Democratic majority.”
One little thing: Miklave said he had not been informed about the press conference.
“I was working,” he said. “I was working in the city.”
If he weren’t working today would he have gone?
“I was working today,” he said. “I was in the city.”
Mangiacopra said he and Rilling had discussed short and long-term goals for Norwalk.
“For me it was never a matter of if I was going to come out for Harry, it was just a matter of when,” he said. “We have been helping all along. Harry and I have had an open dialogue ever since the primary. … I’ve done a lot of work here with the party over the past half dozen years or so. A lot of the people that are running for Common Council and Board of Ed are many people that I helped recruit to run and were supporters of mine. So I just feel that I have an obligation to go out there and reciprocate support on their behalf.”