‘Disappointed’ Perpignan rues Norwalk voter apathy, plans to mentor youth

District A Republican Darline Perpignan offers her thoughts recently during a League of Women Voters debate for in district Common Council candidates.
District A Republican Darline Perpignan offers her thoughts recently during a League of Women Voters debate for in district Common Council candidates.

NORWALK, Conn. – Not winning election to the Common Council in District A was very disappointing, Darline Perpignan said  Saturday, expressing frustration over voter apathy and promising to work to educate voters and make Norwalk a better place.

“I would like to thank all my voters, all the people who came out to vote, especially those who were voting for me,” Perpignan said. “As you know, candidates run to win and me, especially, I ran a campaign to win. It’s unfortunate to see that one of the biggest obstacles I had to face, it was a popularity contest where I really campaigned, and I know that there were other candidates who did not do as much campaigning that I do, who happened to have won. That is one of the things that really disappointed me.”

Perpignan came in fourth among the four candidates. Incumbent Democrat Eloisa Melendez, a 21-year old Norwalk Community College student, came in first with 1,231 votes; former Councilman Steve Serasis, a Democrat, was second with 1,132 votes. Republican newcomer James Cahn got 711 votes and Perpignan got 697 votes. There were 640 blanks.

Perpignan spent the first 12 years of her life in Haiti, then grew up in Bridgeport. Her family had a business in Norwalk for years, she said; they were forced to move to Stamford because of the economic downturn, but she finally completed her dream of moving back to Norwalk within the last year.

She chose District A because she loves it and is familiar with it, she said in October.

She has to do more as a leader, she said Saturday.

“I realized that a lot of people did not vote on the issues and polices. They were voting party and that really disappointed me because I am one of the candidates that went out and went door to door every day that I campaigned to make sure that I made a connection with everyone within the district. … I know that a lot of people did not vote a straight party line, but it remains again a popularity contest because if people were voting on issues then I should have been one of the candidates from my district that won. I was very disappointed not to see that result,” Perpignan said.

That’s “absolutely” voter apathy, she said.

“If people were to know the candidates very well then I should have been a person that won,” Perpignan said. “I come to the table with experience and I come to the table a diverse person. I come to the table highly educated. If we were to do a candidate contract they would see that: I am very educated, I know the issues and I know the policies. Also, James Cahn, also. Very strong candidate and I was proud to have him as a candidate. So I think this has a lot to do with voter apathy.”

Perpignan earned a bachelor’s in International Political Economy and Diplomacy from the University of Bridgeport in 2010 and a master’s in Global Development and Peace in 2013. She worked in conflict resolution in Amman, Jordan, a 12-week internship at the Institute of Diplomacy, a UB publication states.


What about the future?

  • “One of the things that I am going to start doing is to remain very close to voters and different people no matter which party line, and form some kind of relationship and have the relationship grow so that when it is time to run again it’s not the time that I am out there turning myself on the campaign trail,” she said.
  • “Now, in educating people on what is being voted on, the issues, and to sit down in different groups to hear what concerns people within the district and throughout Norwalk in general because when something happens it affects us all in Norwalk, not just one district. Maintaining voter relationships right now is what’s really important to me.”

She would like to know what kept voters from going to the polls.

  • “We had a record low level of voters coming out,” Perpignan said. “That is another strong constant of mine. I need to know what is keeping them back. There was a lot of confusion about the polling but that is not the major obstacle. To me the major obstacle is that people are losing interest, the main thing, I would love to hear why they are disconnected, what is it that we can do better, as an individual, as a leader, as a party or a whole.”
  • “I met a lot of people on the campaign trail that, when I approached them, even starting a basic conversation, they really did not want to be engaged in political conversation because they really do feel their votes do not count.”
  • “I also met a lot of educated people who do not believe in the vision of the city in their redevelopment anymore. They are hopeless and that is why they don’t vote.”

The hopelessness doesn’t just come from Norwalk’s direction but from what is going on at the state level and nationally, she said.

  • “One of the things is to helping people to understand the vision better. That in turn will keep them active. Then help them understand how it benefits them. As we all know when people don’t see much benefit they don’t get involved.”


What did she learn?

  • “I learned a lot. It helped me grow as a person because I worked in many campaigns, in other congressional and municipal campaigns from before.
  • “As a candidate it helped me understand there is a disconnect between the candidates and the voters. Because candidates have to do a better job at connecting with their voters. We have to do better with laying out our issues and laying out our vision.
  • “You get a lot of voters they are like fanatics, they are like fans to a certain point. No matter what they are going to come out because they are such a fan. But not like they really understand the game. That is how I feel, that really told me that I personally, did not stand apart, that I have to do differently. Because it’s not to promote anybody but it’s to do better for people within the community because that’s really my interested, to see that everybody leads a quality lifestyle, that every dream is being fulfilled.”


Any comment on Republican mayoral candidate Kelly Straniti?

  • “She had a positive campaign out there. She was going against an incumbent and as I said, it was a lot of voter apathy and then also a popularity contest. It was her first time running city-wide. I know she looks forward to running again in the future.”


Other thoughts on the future

Perpignan said she wanted to expand a program she began in Stamford – Leaders of Tomorrow – to Norwalk High School.

“Early next year we are going to start recruiting, we are hoping to help develop leadership scales that are lacked within our youth in Norwalk,” Perpignan said. “That is really one of my plans. That will help me to get to know the youth of Norwalk better and to get connections with their parents better and just to have a voice within the community, and to help the future of Norwalk.”

She will be looking for about 30 inner city youth to participate in the program, she said. This includes a trip to Haiti, at most a week long, to expose them to the lifestyle of youth there, and a trip to Washington D.C. where they will visit Congress to see how the nation is run, she said. They will meet local leaders, too.

Inner city youth don’t get the chance to travel and benefit by being taken out of their comfort zone, she said.

“I believe that we owe it to our students for them to be part within the community so that way they can start learning at an early age what it is and how to start up a business. It is important for them to get that coaching,” Perpignan said.

One 2013 Stamford High School student didn’t think she would graduate, but Leaders of Tomorrow changed that to the point that the young woman got a college scholarship and has gone abroad to study, Perpignan said.

“We seek to make them model citizens. … I will continue to do this as long as I can,” Perpignan said.


One last thing

“We have to have an effective process to know how to measure, to really hold our leaders accountable, measure change,” Perpignan said. “We have to have that because, at the end of the day, it comes down to leadership, it comes down to vision. When you have weak leadership and you have no vision then you end up in turmoil. … That is how important leadership is to me. Though I did not win I congratulate all the winners and I look forward to working with everyone in a bipartisan manner.”


4 responses to “‘Disappointed’ Perpignan rues Norwalk voter apathy, plans to mentor youth”

  1. Watt the F?

    Ms. Perpignan’s statements reek of an attitude of entitlement. Perhaps the other side won simply because voters chose the known over the unknown? Unless Darline had a compelling message, campaigning against the incumbent was an uphill challenge, as it usually is.

    Her statements about voter apathy are reminiscent of the Donald blaming Iowans as he saw his standing in the polls slipping against Ben Carson. Blaming your market demographic for your failures is probably a good way to alienate them. Ms. Perpignan should instead focus on educating her would-be constituents on why it’s important to vote. Unless she would prefer to engage in a popularity contest, of course.

  2. Missy Conrad

    What a contrast when one sees the sports stadiums & arenas so full of enthusiastic people versus the attention those people pay to government! Our Civics curriculum is being/has been (we of the public or League of Women Voters were not included)revised. It is in school that one learns, & Civics must be addressed more fully & at an age-appropriate age. People prefer to be entertained, but do need to learn the responsibility of citizenship in a democratic republic. Also, fundamentally, our democracy must be publicly funded: this will reduce the time, money, & resources spent on fundraising & the influence of special/narrow interests; the time will be better spent on listening to All of one’s constituents & doing the work of all levels of government & even of the Judicial branch, since some states have elections for judges. Join the League of Women Voters of Norwalk, receive membership in the Connecticut & US of America League at the same time, to support non-partisan consideration of issues & information: POBox 644, Norwalk, 06852!

  3. Missy Conrad

    PS: Cost is $50 individual or $75 for family League of Women Voters Membership.

  4. Darline Perpignan

    I look forward to the day some “new people” exercise their rights to comment and echo their voices on this site.

    Also, it is unfortunate that many colleagues seek to always travel to DC for some different outreach and political trainings. The day will come when a local bipartisan training agency opened for all to join.

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