Updated 1:38 a.m. Monday with response from Andy Garfunkel
NORWALK, Conn. – A move by former Town Clerk and current mayoral candidate Andy Garfunkel designed, he said, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, may have backfired Sunday night.
Garfunkel, who unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia in 2011, resigned his position as Norwalk Democratic Party Chairman for District A Saturday and called on District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, who has also filed papers to run for mayor, to immediately do the same.
However, Garfunkel’s move drew an immediate rebuke from the Democratic Town Committee chief, who cast doubt on his ability to gain the party’s backing.
Committee Chairwoman Amanda Brown told Nancy On Norwalk this isn’t the type of leadership the party wants to endorse.
In his emailed announcement Sunday, Garfunkel said, “It creates an appearance of unfairness for a mayoral contender to serve on the Democratic Town Committee’s Executive Committee as a district chair until a candidate is finally selected after the primary process. One of the things I’ve learned from my years in public service is that it’s essential to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”
Brown’s response was harsh.
“It is evident that he quit on the committed Democrats in District A that elected him to be their representative and leader in order to promote his desires for citywide office,” she said in an email. “Further, he called for others to abdicate their elected positions of duty and leadership. This isn’t the pattern of good leadership that our party is looking to exemplify.”
Mangiacopra said he would not be stepping down.
“While I respect Andy’s decision to leave his post as District A Chairman he by no means has the authority to ask any of the other candidates to step down from the roles in which we are serving on behalf of Norwalkers,” he said in an email.
Brown characterized Garfunkel’s concern about the 10-member executive committee as a “misperception.” Both mayoral candidates on the committee would be required to recuse themselves whenever the topics regarding the mayoral position, she said, adding, “There would be nothing else hindering any candidates’ ability to participate in the remaining business and governing of the NDTC.”
Garfunkel still has the ability to vote to endorse himself, even though he has resigned as district chairman, she said.
Garfunkel said in his press release that he is focusing on becoming the Democratic Party nominee to take down Moccia and take Norwalk in a new direction.
“Our city needs a mayor with the experience, credibility and vision to bring it to the next level,” he said in an email. “My sole focus over the next several months will be communicating with the people of Norwalk and explaining to them why I’m that man.”
It’s obvious, though, that Garfunkel has a long way to go to convince his own party that he is the man to run against Moccia, who is seeking his fifth term in office.
“Each candidate’s behavior over the coming months will be carefully observed and discussed during our endorsement deliberations by the entire DTC, all 35 members,” Brown said in her email. “If this is any indication of the Garfunkel campaign’s style of leadership then I find it difficult to believe that an endorsement from the party will be forthcoming.”
Garfunkel responded to Brown’s comments with an email late Sunday.
“While I respect the position of the party chair, no single person speaks for the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee,” he said. “Over the next several months, I will continue to make my case to the town committee members, to Norwalk Democrats, and ultimately to all the voters of Norwalk, regardless of party affiliation, as to why I have the experience and vision to be Norwalk’s next Mayor. The people deserve a respectful discussion of issues and ideas, and that’s what they’ll get from me.”