Update 3:30 p.m, It’s Relevant video added; Correction: The primary election is Aug. 12
NORWALK, Conn. — The last official piece of the 142nd District puzzle was put into place Tuesday night as Democratic district delegates from Norwalk and New Canaan gave their official nod to former Norwalk Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel as their candidate for state representative.
Garfunkel will face the winner of an expected Republican primary between party-endorsed candidate Emily Wilson and challenger Fred Wilms. The primary will be held Aug. 12, and the general election is Nov. 4.
Ten of the district’s 11 eligible delegates were in attendance at Oak Hills Restaurant on the Green event, and the vote was unanimous for Garfunkel, who was unopposed.
Nijole Potts, who was present as proxy on behalf of husband Christopher Potts, Garfunkel’s campaign treasurer, nominated Garfunkel. Chris Potts, who is suffering from health issues, expressed through his wife his regret at not being able to perform the nomination in person.
In nominating Garfunkel, Nijole Potts said the candidate had been helpful while her husband has been ill. “He’s always the first person to roll up his sleeves whenever anyone needs help,” she said.
Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling was on hand to endorse Garfunkel’s run, and his remarks underscored the message that Garfunkel is a ready and willing volunteer in the community.
“Andy has served Norwalk and the Democratic Party extremely well,” he said. “He especially espouses Democratic values … especially working on behalf of everybody.”
Rilling talked about Garfunkel’s community involvement, drawing laughter when he said, “Go to any event, and you’ll definitely see Andy. And if you don’t, he’s probably lying in a hospital bed. … That’s the kind of guy he is – he’s always there.”
Rilling said Garfunkel represented Norwalk well around the state as town clerk and made a lot of contacts. He said Garfunkel was a champion of voters who made sure “people who have a right to vote were not impeded by any crazy rules or over-exaggerated enforcement.
“I can’t think of a better person to represent the 142nd District in Hartford than Andy Garfunkel.”
Garfunkel thanked the delegates and others in attendance and said it will take someone who can work cooperatively to have an impact at the state level.
“The long-term health and vitality of this region and its cities and towns are vitally linked together by decisions made at the state level,” he said. “I know that you are also aware that the ability to work cooperatively with others is a job requirement. There is no one individual, no one city or town that has a special privilege.
It takes working together, building consensus, and a big-picture approach. It requires finding common ground and building a foundation that will support our long-term economic and environmental health.
“It is also important to have a deep understanding of the pressing needs of your community — its people, its resources and the things that bind us together.”
Garfunkel acknowledged the existing Norwalk legislative delegation “that we have in place,” a reference to state Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) and representatives Bruce Morris (D-140) and Chris Perone (D-137). Duff, who planned to be at Oak Hills but was tied up at another caucus, faces a challenge from Republican Bill Dunne in November, while Morris and Perone will face Democratic primary challenges from Warren Peña and David Watts, respectively. Watts won a close race for the D-137 endorsement Tuesday night, while Morris coasted to victory over Pena in the D-140 caucus.
Garfunkel, who served as town clerk for 10 years and is currently a trustee of the Norwalk Seaport Association, acknowledged that the race will be a challenging one as he seeks to claim a seat that has been held by Republican stalwart Larry Cafero for 22 years.
“It will not be an easy task to win this seat, but I will give it a 110 percent effort,” he said.
Rilling pointed out that, while Norwalk has more Democrats than Republicans, New Canaan is more heavily Republican, and that unaffiliated voters outnumber both.
“We have our work cut out for us, folks,” he said. “We have to go out and get those unaffiliated voters. We have a real chance this year to take back 142.”
Garfunkel attended the University of Bridgeport, majoring in theatrical design. He owned and operated his own home remodeling business in Fairfield and Westchester counties for more than 15 years before serving as Norwalk’s town clerk from 2001 to 2011. He left the position to challenge former Mayor Richard Moccia in the 2011 mayor’s race and lost by just over 800 votes. He jumped into the four-way primary race for mayor last fall, but his campaign never got any traction.
He is currently a licensed Real Estate agent with William Raveis in Norwalk and a free-lancing technician with both the Studio Mechanics and Stage Employees Unions in the tri-state area.