Rilling wins Dem mayoral primary with more than 51% of vote

Former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling beams after decisively winning Tuesday’s primary. Rilling and his supporters met at the Hilton Garden Inn.

NORWALK, Conn. — A jubilant Harry Rilling stepped to the lecturn at about 8:35 Tuesday night at the Hilton Garden Inn to greet his friends, backers and the media after state Sen. Bob Duff told the crowd there was “good news.” That news was that Rilling, a 41-year Norwalk police officer and 17-year chief, had just won the right to try to unseat four-term incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia in the November election. According to the official tally from Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells, Rilling took 1,703 of the 3,325 votes cast by Norwalk Democrats. It was a low turnout, but not totally unexpected — Mayor Richard Moccia told NancyOnNorwalk Friday he expected about 3,000 to 3,500 would vote. The figure represented 20.88 percent of Norwalk’s 15,985 registered Democratic voters.


Rilling’s total was more than twice that of his nearest competitor. District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra got 781 votes, while Common Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) got 501 and former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel polled 340. Gov. Dannel Malloy preceded Rilling at the microphone and congratulated Rilling, exhorting the crowd to work hard to put Norwalk under Democratic guidance. Then Rilling spoke. “We did it right. We stayed on message. And we kept positive through the whole thing,” Rilling said, reinforcing his message of bringing civility back to local government. “And I can tell you, we will continue to do it right, stay on message and keep it positive.” “This is not going to be an easy fight,” he said. “We’re going to have a struggle, but we are going to forge ahead. We are going to continue staying on message, keeping a positive campaign, because the people will hear us. The people will respond. The people will say it’s now time for change and the Democratic Party is back.” Mangiacopra, accompanied by Democratic Common Councilmen Warren Peña and David Watts, stopped by about 9:30 p.m. to congratulate Rilling. Rilling thanked his campaign workers and said that, after all his years in public service, he had learned a few things in his campaign. “The things I have learned have been amazing. I have met so many wonderful people. It is now time to band together again, double, triple in size. Let’s move on to November and let’s win there!”


59 responses to “Rilling wins Dem mayoral primary with more than 51% of vote”

  1. D(ysfunctional)TC

    So the four candidates collectively got over 3200 unique signatures to qualify, but together they may not end up with as many votes. Even the winner should be demoralized by this.

  2. Ace22

    What I’m about to say is not an attack on you, just an observation. When I come on this site, I often see many of your posts. Clearly, you’re not a fan of the Democratic Party and I’m sure there are several other patrons on this site that share your distaste for them as well. However, I find your comments to be very negative, degrading, and often unnecessary. Not every thought ought to be uttered, or in your case, typed. Perhaps your arguments would encompass come validity if it weren’t always wrapped with negativity and bias. I will add one thing, you have made a good point here and agin…for what it’s worth. Oh, and I would say Happy Voting, but I don’t think that wouldn apply to you in this primary! :o)

  3. Suzanne

    When I think about what so many gave up around the world, sometimes their lives, for this most treasured right, the right to vote, it honestly makes me sick that the lack of consciousness is so great that so few would participate in today’s primary. I have heard all of the excuses including but not limited to, “I work”, “I can’t get to the polls”, “I forgot”, “Why should I? My vote doesn’t count anyway” etc., etc. When this few people do vote, you can be assured that every vote counts and makes a difference. Come on, Norwalk, make a difference. Each and every one of you who do not vote can do better. Lives were lost so you could. There are no excuses good enough. Make your vote count.

  4. D(ysfunctional)TC

    @Ace22, By all means if you are happy with the current brand your local party offers, then keep supporting it. Some of us can chose to be citizens first and affiliate with parties second. That you chose to support a party led by those who would condone assaulting elderly citizens is your choice.

    Personally I vote candidates and ideas, not party. But I do think a strong two party system is necessary for the city to function properly. Something we clearly do not have right now. That will not change until a majority of the Ds say they have had enough. This turnout looks like a pretty clear statement by the electorate.

  5. Heard it hear first

    Rilling will unseat Moccia.

  6. Tim T

    I will be voting for Moccia

  7. Bill

    Anyone but Vinny or Moccia

  8. Tim T

    Actually Bill
    I was thinking anyone but Rilling..Thus my vote for Moccia

  9. Bill

    Why would you support more of the same with Moccia? What do you not like about Rilling, Tim?

  10. shoegogirl33

    I agree with Ace22 observations…your negativity is distasteful and contagious. A man wether he is young or elderly should NEVER hit a woman!!!

    Vote for Moccia and pay for his retirement pension for life who has done nothing in 7 years…..NOTHING! Or vote for Riling, a cardboard gangster who as police chief has fostered crooked cops under his watch (I will not name them).

    I will vote for neither Moccia or Rilling…I’m moving out of Norwalk! Property taxes are much lower in surrounding towns and schools are superior!

  11. shoegogirl33

    PS. Did anyone notice the chief moderator of the polling site at West Rocks was also the treasurer of Rilling’s campaign? Ummmm……..that’s fishy!

  12. Ace22

    Thank you. At least someone understands. @Dysfunctional…you’re assuming I’m a Democrat! I NEVER said that. I, too, vote for the individual, NOT party! Anyway, my post to you was just an observation that I needed to point out, not an attack, but thank you for your response!

  13. Tim T

    Did you forget about Rilling’s time as police consultant and the scandals at the NPD, out of control overtime, out of control crime, and almost a ZERO violent crimes solved rate. Doesn’t sound like much of a leader to me.

  14. shoegogirl33

    PSS. Rilling already has a pension from the City of Norwalk……..I guess if he wins he’ll be double dipping in tax payers pockets!

  15. Suzanne

    Hardly a landslide. The disenchanted party has spoken loud and clear – it was not worth their time to vote.

  16. Oldtimer

    Mission accomplished !!
    The next task will be winning a bigger victory over the
    been-there-too-long incumbent. Mayor Rilling sounds good to me.

  17. RU4REEL

    Sounds about right to me too OT.
    Sue, landslide for Harry with the votes cast against the other guys, that better?

  18. Buford T. J.

    Still time to scoop the hour with some pics…

  19. EveT

    @TimT, would you please provide details to support your accusations: “…Rilling’s time as police consultant and the scandals at the NPD, out of control overtime, out of control crime, and almost a ZERO violent crimes solved rate.”

  20. piberman

    Even by Norwalk standards the unusually low turnout – about 3,000 reported out of 16,000 registered Democrats or 1 in 5 – is surprising given 4 energetic candidates with similar messages who together raised several hundred thousand dollars. That sum overshadows most recent election campaigns. Democratic voters are clearly sending a message to the DTC. The endorsements of elected Democrat legislators and local officials past and present apparently had limited firepower. Note that in nearby Stamford some 6,000 Democrats turned out – some 2 times the Norwalk turnout. That comparison alone indicates the malaise affecting Norwalk Democrats. Chief Rilling clearly has his work cut out for himself to attract Norwalk Democrats and other voters.

    These results have another message and a quite positive one. There is in Norwalk an alternative path towards securing a Party’s mayoral nomination for mayor other than working up through the political ranks. Establishing a secure reputation for genuine “public service” over an extended period can be rewarded in Norwalk. That’s not often possible in most communities. Certainly the pride of our City – our police officers – can enjoy the elevation that “one of their team” made the cut in a challenging campaign. Chief Rilling has demonstrated that it doesn’t have to be the “same old politics”. That in and of itself is quite an achievement.

    It should be the most interesting mayoral campaign in years, if not decades.

  21. D(ysfunctional)TC

    I stand corrected on my first comment about the winner being demoralized not realizing it would be the landslide it was. Credit goes to Mr. Rilling’s team for overcoming the dysfunction of the 35 member DTC who decided to throw their lot in for a primary, choosing an outsider with zero experience.

  22. Bill

    Rilling’s first job as head of the party is to kick Amanda Browns butt out

  23. Tim T

    I know you are already aware and just hoping that I don’t reply. However here is some reading for you to start with. As for the crime just look in any days Norwalk Hour.





  24. Joe Espo

    I would love to be a fly on the wall (or a tapegate recorder) at that “unity” meeting the dems are supposedly having this morning or tomorrow. Garfunkel has said he’s not automatically supporting the winner, and really doesn’t have an interest. I haven’t read that the losing dem candidates have immediately urged their supporters to back Rilling. Vinny and Miklave supporters have pounded out the message that a vote for Rilling is a vote for Moccia. Some dems have said they’ll vote for neither and sit it out. Amanda Brown has no juice, what with the brawl at city hall the smack-down of two prominent and elderly democrats and the circus that was the dem convention. The Ward B upstarts, at least one of whom loves guns, have alienated everybody for Vinny’s sake and for their own foolish political powerplay pitting young vs. old. Watts and Neon’s favorite punching bag, Pena, look like they’re history because of imature forrays into fools-errand politics. Pena’s forgetting that besides Latinos, there are Ital-inos, Irish-inos, Greek-inos and other -inos who’s votes he should be courting but is alienating at NASCAR pace. Rilling or his officers have arrested and convicted a significant number of his political base over the years. Crime has actually gone down since Rilling retired. Rilling’s police overtime nut ballooned during his tenure. Departmental sex scandals galore. And…and… there’s dirty stuff ready to come out if the campaign gets nasty. Not to mention that he’s making dozens of promises that he can’t possibly live up to given the charter and ordinance authoriy that he has.
    Ought to be an interesting campaign season.

  25. ScopeonNorwalk

    Norwalk is doomed.

  26. M. Murray’s

    Awesome night!

  27. Daisy

    Rilling has a LOT of baggage. Question is whether Moccia’s team will try to use it, but much of it does have to do with his tenure as chief.

  28. EastNorwalkChick

    I had a feeling he would win, I’m not so sure that it was that he stayed on message as he says, or his message at all. I think it was mainly due to the strength of his name recognition….and wanting someone who had that strength or any strength to beat Moccia in the general.

    It is kind of sad that only 20% showed up to vote, but then again only 14,000 in total people bothered to vote in the Mayoral election last time….

  29. Don’t Panic

    If Mr. Rilling doesn’t move quickly to unite the party and attract unaffiliateds by incorporating the issues of his opponents and taking substantial positions on the issues of importance to all Norwalkers, Mr. Moccia will pursue a divide and conquer strategy to win another term.
    Calls to unite the party are insufficient. Half the Dems need to be persuaded that Mr. Rilling will take on the issues that they cared about enough to vote for someone else.
    If Mr. Rilling does not move to unite and reform his adopted party, this win will have rendered the party to irrelevance for years to come.

  30. Mike Mushak

    There is a noticable hint of fresh air in Norwalk this morning, and a spirit of possibility that we haven’t had in years. Me thinks the GOP right wingers who comment on this site are just a bit freaked about the prospect of a professional and accountable Rilling Administration. Wonder why?
    Watch the nasty GOP attack machine move into high gear soon, as they will have to go negative instead of attempting the impossible task of defending the failed policies, bad planning decisions, and well-known arrogance of their hero Dick Moccia, which could fill a book. Moccia will soon be history, and Norwalk will be the better for it, so get used to it.

  31. Al Raymond

    Okay, I have been watching & listening quietly. Now that the primary is over & Harry has won now is when the real work begins. For years I have been upset about the turn out at the polls. If Harry really wants to win this election he needs to focus on getting people out to vote & Clearly tell the people what he would like to do & how he plans to get it done with out raising taxes. Norwalk has about 85000.00 people & the number of people that come out to vote is so low I think the number is like 35000 not sure of the exact # but it`s very low. Harry, the more people you can get out to vote the more are your chances to win and turn Norwalk around. So starting today the hard work begins hope your up for it Norwalk needs change Norwalk needs someone who cares about it`s history & it`s future & about the people that live here.

  32. EveT

    @TimT thank you for posting the links. I hope others will go to those stories, as I did, and note that YourCT.com is a blog, not a bona fide news organization.

    To the salary information posted on NancyOnNorwalk I say, yes, and? If you have a problem with how much public employees earn, that’s a legitimate concern, but I don’t see it as a failing of any individual. What would you say an employee like Rilling ought to do? Refuse the money?

  33. Oldtimer

    Baggage ? We all have baggage and prefer to call it experience or even history. Knowing both candidates, and a lot of their history, it would be a very bad mistake for Moccia, with his own special baggage,to get into that kind of a campaign.

  34. @Oldtimer

    What special baggage do you refer? It often makes me laugh when people post these half baked claims on a public forum. Back it up Oldtimer. For the record: I am not a Moccia voter. Just curious.

  35. bill

    Rilling better not raise taxes or promise everything or the middle class will in Norwalk will surely back Moccia in droves. No one wants to pay government workers more than they are already making.

  36. LWitherspoon

    The Democrats who voted on Tuesday chose the best Democratic candidate in overwhelming numbers. Let this be a lesson to Matt Miklave, David Watts, and Warren Pena, who have devoted the past several years to doing the DTC’s bidding on council. Miklave’s own bloviating, gamesmanship, and votes in support of union wants over taxpayer needs have led to a poor third place finish.
    Congratulations to former Chief Rilling on his decisive win. Rilling is the best candidate the Democrats have had in years. The question now is whether or not Chief Rilling will give us a clear picture of where he stands on the issues. We know that he is in favor of good schools, baseball fields, and apple pie. How will he pay for it all? What line items would have been different in the most recent budget in a Rilling administration?
    The other looming question is where Rilling stands regarding DTC Chair Amanda Brown’s brawl at City Hall with two octogenarian members of the DTC. As Police Chief, Rilling would likely have seen to it that such an incident were followed by an arrest. In contrast as a Mayoral Candidate, Rilling excused Ms. Brown’s behavior with his apperance at the shameful press conference following the incident.
    Where does former Chief Rilling stand regarding Matt Miklave’s call for cleaning house at the DTC in the wake of the brawl at City Hall? Will Rilling adopt that plank into his platform, or will we be treated to more of the same vague promises and political expedience? This independent voter wants to know.

  37. D(ysfunctional)TC

    @LW. We shall see, but Rilling has played this very well politically if he turns against the DTC leadership now. He’ll get a pass for letting the Brown incident go as he wasn’t the party leader when it happened. Now that he is clearly the party leader he can make this move with much less resistance and will gain broad acceptance from the electorate as well. Not just Ds but likely some Is and Rs as well who are sick of a poorly functioning political process.

    I think you are right with your questions. He is going to have to explain how he will fund his programs and vision but it will be a welcome dialog this city should have.

    For certain Norwalk won last night. Our Democrat electorate spoke loud and clear that an outsider with no public service record in the city is not welcome. For Andy, the lesson learned is it isn’t enough to run on your last defeat alone. And as a bonus Miklave, the human rain delay, is no longer on the council. Immediately our council meetings will be 25% more productive.

  38. SJ

    @BILL and L Witherspoon

    You too guys remind me of Statler & Waldorf from the muppet show. Enjoy the video below.


    Good luck to all the Democrats running in November.

  39. SJ

    Sorry for the typo

    its You two guys not too guys. NoN needs a edit button. Still enjoy the video!

  40. EastNorwalkChick

    @LWitherspoon-Regarding your second paraghraph, I asked Mr. Rilling that very question before I went into vote, would he consider Andy Garfunkle’s idea of eliminated or consolidating departments in City Hall. He said that is one of the items he has included in his platform. Should have looked at his website before asking, it’s all there.
    I was rather impressed with the time he took with me answering this question in quite detail, explaining that his years of dealing with all the various departments there he knows where the waste and redundancy is in City Hall. He also touched on Matt’s idea of going line by line on the budget.
    So if Mr. Rilling emphasizes this point, which many citizens are concerned about, he may just have a chance in the general.
    As for the DTC, Rilling right now as the Dem Mayoral candidate has no control over the them. But, if he wins in the fall, then by proxy he would be considered the head of the DTC, then maybe he could make some changes. But I’m not holding my breath…they are too entrenched with old ways of thinking and far too divided, unless some people are willing to step down, nothing is going to change.
    Besides, most Independents vote for the person, not the party in this town, so why should it bother you so much that they should clean up their act?

  41. LWitherspoon

    @SJ aka David Watts
    You keep changing your name, but your comments continue to be absent any thoughtful or factual statements.
    If I were you I would spend less time calling people names and more time apologizing to former Chief Rilling for the attacks you launched against him on these pages.

  42. SJ

    @L WItherspoon, aka Waldorf

    The posting of the Statler & Waldorf video was done to bring a little joy into your life.

  43. Suzanne

    Let’s focus, everyone, on the issue at hand: the potential for a Democratic mayor, clear on the issues and follow through on the hyperbole, is elected over the current Mayor Moccia. Cartoons might be funny but save them for Calf Pasture Beach, on week ends, you know? Let’s, instead, focus, focus, focus on the next job that needs to be done that is so important to the future of Norwalk.

  44. shoegogirl33

    Decisive, landslide win….? 20% of the registered Democrats came out to vote only 10% of who actually care to exercise their right to vote, voted for Rilling. Why were there four nominees to begin with….shows how unorganized us Dems are…! Not sure why Andy Garfunkel didn’t step down this go round. We supported him 110% of the way last campaign. I even passed out literature for him. I had a feeling from the very beginning Rilling would win when I saw some crooked officials who stood in his corner (no names…cough Morris!) and until just recently the illegal lawn signs placed in public area, I knew he would use everything to win but I still don’t trust him. But of course my distaste for Moccia is even greater. Thanks TimT for including your supporting evidence. Whether it be a blog or written on the bathroom stall you have included your sources (THE HOUR) so I cannot refute that. LWitherspoon….Let this be a lesson? What are you…some type of authority? You sound obsolete and irrelevant…….you sound like the GOP!

  45. Asa H.M.

    @EastNorwalkChick- And you think Rilling is NOT entrenched with the old ways? Alex Knopp will have his 3rd term as mayor (probably from the Corporate Council office), Donna King will by City Clerk and all those DTC has-beens will come back to life! If Rilling wins, it will be a repeat of past history, and nothing to show for it. Such a sad day for Norwalk, that we have no vision with either candidate come November….

  46. LongTimeDem

    A couple of points. People can take them for what they are worth (if anything).

    1. Illegal lawn signs on public property. If candidates were prosecuted for placing lawn signs illegally on public property, the entire cast of elected officials in Norwalk would currently be on probation, along with their defeated opponents. Annoying? Yes. Visual pollution? Yes. A reason to vote against someone? Eh…

    2. Harry Rilling is more or less part of the same Reform Democrat tradition that first gained hold in City Hall with Bill Collins’s election 36 years ago. (Yes, 36 years is a long time.) Alex was part of that tradition as well. I would expect that Harry will be his own man in spite of this, as he has 17+ years of executive experience as the head of the police department (chief, consultant, who gives a damn, he was running the place), and after 17 years in charge of something like a police department, one will not be particularly inclined towards taking orders from DTC personnel, whether allied or antagonistic.

    3. The history of the last 40+ years in Norwalk has been an alternation between Republican mayors and councils who pretty much want to tend to and maintain the status quo (Esposito, Moccia) and Reform Democrats who want to do things differently, but end up pissing off a lot of people because they are more interested in changing things to meet their own vision of Norwalk than in doing the schmoozing and glad-handing necessary to maintain their own popularity (Collins, Knopp). I don’t know if Harry will steer a middle course between these two tendencies, but it would be nice if he could.

    4. If elected, Harry will likely be a transitional figure. Embarking on a mayoral career at an age over 70 does not suggest the likelihood that he will be there for anywhere near as long as Esposito (who, bless his memory, was rather tired at the end of his tenure). After him will come a new generation of Democratic contenders, for good or for ill. Whether Harry wins or loses, he will likely be the last Democratic candidate who even remembers who the hell someone like Nick Bredice even was…

    (Editor’s note: According to online records, Rilling his 66 years old.)

  47. Tim T

    Some highlights of the NPD when Rilling was police consultant
    Grated some of these issues did not happen when Rilling was police consultant but the individuals involved were hired or promoted during Rillings time as police consultant.

    Richard Ribisl

    Shannon Sherry

    Lt. Michael King

    Sgt. Stephen Couture

    Liam Callahan

    Kenneth Cerulli

    Lt. Thomas Cummings

    Anthony Santo

    Matthew Morelli

    Russell Ouellette

    Thomas Mattera

  48. Don’t Panic

    Interesting history. Thank you.

  49. Joe Espo

    All this history, all this political babble, just makes me want to break out in a song and a dance… Here’s to you, SJ.

  50. LongTimeDem

    Editor: Thank you for the correction on age, and my apologies to the candidate; I thought I had read somewhere that he was 71. That does give him more time to serve if he’s elected and reelected, but particularly if he does serve two or three terms, it is hard (though I guess not impossible) to think of a future Democratic mayor who cut their political teeth in the early part of the Collins administration.

  51. LWitherspoon

    Agreed. Rilling sharing his feelings about what has gone on in the DTC would tell us whether he is really a new face or simply more of the same. It would also say a lot to independents and Rs who are open to crossing over to vote for a “law and order” Dem who is fiscally responsible.
    A “line by line review of the budget” isn’t anything that Matt Miklave came up with on his own. Rather it’s how politicians try to establish that they’re fiscally responsible without saying anything specific. Obama and Al Gore and many others have proposed the same thing. Then they get elected, or don’t, and it’s business as usual. I seriously doubt there’s enough waste in the budget to find $7 million in savings, as Miklave was promising. But Miklave still has a few months left before his Council term ends – maybe now he will give us a hint as to where those $7 million are. He has had eight years on Common Council to find it.
    Regarding your second question, as an Independent I care very much about how closely a candidate is tied to a party machine. I don’t want a Mayor who will be taking orders from the DTC the same way that many of the Democrats on Common Council take orders from the DTC. The behavior of David Watts and others related to outsourcing of garbage collection was simply disgraceful, and I’m confident this was largely driven by the DTC. I do want the Democrats to field a strong candidate for Mayor which is something they appear to have done, in spite of the best efforts of DTC leadership. Now we have a choice.
    I was heartened by Harry Rilling’s comment on the DTC questionnaire that “Norwalk taxes are too high for services received.” Perhaps this is why current DTC leadership supported Mangiacopra, an outsider with no experience, over Rilling. I look forward to hearing more specifics from Harry Rilling.

  52. Norwalk Dinosaur

    @LW & DysfunctionalTC, the DTC leadership includes Brenda Penn-Williams (Vice Chair and Executive Board Member), Peter Thor (Treasurer, Executive Board Member and State Central Representative), Bobby Burgess (District B Chairman and Executive Board Member), and Galen Wells (Recording Secretary and Executive Board Member) — 4 of 6 Leadership positions!! And ALL Rilling supporters.

    Do you really think that he is going to “Shake Things Up”?!

  53. D(ysfunctional)TC

    @Norwalk Dino. I was speaking about the 15 or so that voted for Vinny. Based on the election results he should only have had like 5 supporters and there never should have been a primary. A son of Norwalk with a four decade distinguished career versus a kid with no experience and even less tact from Bridgeport. What were they smoking?

    The DTC needs to represent Norwalk Democrats, not ones from Bridgeport and New Haven or those who would affront, accost, and assault senior citizens. The electorate spoke very loudly on this. Duff, Perone, and Morris also spoke up. The current makeup of the DTC is very damaging to the city’s political process and Norwalk will be better off when Rilling speaks up on this.

    They do not have to resign, but the smart political move is for Rilling to speak up on this. There are 30,000 unaffiliated potential voters versus the 700 that voted for Vinny. If he does he shows independence, something the electorate seems to embrace.

    If he doesn’t speak up he risks giving the perception that he condones physical confrontation to resolve political differences. Some would like for the Amanda Brown incident to be swept under the rug, but Rilling has already opened this door today with the article on civility. He can’t have this both ways and will be called out on it if he doesn’t address it soon in a real and meaningful way.

  54. RU4REEL

    Do not forget that the man with pancake size hands slapped this woman, you folks are re telling a story and leaving parts out.

  55. LWitherspoon

    You’re right, and nobody has forgotten. Bill Krummel and Amanda Brown should both step down for their inexcusable behavior. I am disappointed that we haven’t seen more from Candidate Rilling on this subject. One could easily conclude that he supports their continuing in their current roles, since he lent his support and credibility to the shameful press conference designed to sweep it all under the rug.

  56. Tim T

    Also let us not forget that Rilling failed to condemn the violence of Amanda Brown…. Not much of a leader in Rilling but we already knew that from his time as police consultant.

  57. RU4REEL

    Or the violence of Krummel, until after the facts came in then he did make a comment.
    Leaders make decisions AFTER the facts have been determined NOT before.

  58. Tim T

    A comment is not the same as beating up an old lady and old man…I would hope that even Rilling would understand this.. But when looking at his time as police consultant I guess he doesn’t.

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