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Independents’ slate brings Norwalk fall election into focus

The Independents for Norwalk Board of Education slate, from left, Alexandra Kemeny, Katherine (Price) Snedaker, Jody Sattler and Shirley Mosby. (Courtesy photos)

The 2021 Election is Nov. 2. A primary would be Sept. 14.

NORWALK, Conn. — Former Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton has made good on her promise – she has a full slate of Board of Education candidates seeking votes under her fledgling Independents for Norwalk banner.

Shirley Mosby, a Democrat, and Alexandra Kemeny, a Republican, have experience running before, as Mosby was a Democratic BoE member and Kemeny was an endorsed Republican candidate two years ago. Katherine (Price) Snedaker and Jody Sattler are new to the fray but familiar names in education circles, Snedaker as a healthcare and social services executive and Sattler as a PTA President and School Governance Co-Chair.

Brinton, in a news release, said they have obtained the signatures necessary to qualify as petition candidates on the ballot this fall. Brinton, who is running for Common Council member at large and is unaffiliated, also announced the other 10 members of her slate. They include former Brien McMahon High School Athletic Director Joe Maddafari for sheriff, running against Democratic incumbent Bobby Burgess and Republican candidate Ron Paladino.

The Independents’ BoE slate provides competition to the four Democrats who are running in the absence of Republican-endorsed candidates: incumbent BoE Chairman Colin Hosten and newcomers Kara Baekey, Sheri McCready Brown and Janine Randolph. Hosten has never run for BoE before, as he was appointed in 2019 to replace BoE member Bruce Kimmel, after winning election to the Common Council.

Brinton’s news release offers this information:

  • Shirley Mosby, a veteran Democrat, community leader and former BOE member said, ‘I welcome the opportunity to re-establish the Independent Party, reinvigorate the line, the party and its platform focused on local issues, with candidates from all political backgrounds.  Joining this team reinforces my belief and passion in advocating for inclusiveness for all stakeholders – children, parents, community, public and taxpayers.  I believe we need input from everyone in order to achieve our goal of ensuring all children receive a quality education.’”
  • Alex Kemeny is a retired NPS music teacher and co-founder of the popular Crystal Theater, a premier children’s theater group. She understands the needs of students from both a teacher and a parent perspective and said, ‘Student success is not only impacted by teachers, but even more influenced by their parents.’  Emphasizing parents should have a stronger voice in their children’s education, Kememy continued, ‘It’s the obligation of the Board of Ed to make responsible decisions, balancing funds allocated by the city and supporting teachers in the classroom to create an environment that enables successful learning.’”
  • Katherine (Price) Snedaker, is a social service and healthcare executive and founder of PINK Concussions, a non-profit organization focused on education and post injury medical care for women and girls incurred from sport, violence, accidents or military service. She is the mother of three graduates from Brien McMahon and the daughter of former superintendent Ralph Sloan, who was superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools from 1983 until his retirement in 1998. Snedaker believes parents are critical to a student’s education and wants more transparent communication. ‘I’m running to give back to the school system where my sons were educated.  As an alumni of private school, I believe in public education and chose this path for my family.  As a long-time volunteer, taxpayer and 30 year resident, I want to listen and work with all stakeholders to improve our school system for the current and next generations.’”
  • Jody Sattler is the only BOE slate member with three children currently enrolled in Norwalk Public Schools. She’s been a PTA President at Rowayton, Roton and Brien McMahon and member of the School Governance Council at all three schools. A former Client Rep and Global operations Manager for the Energy Services Industry with IBM, she wants the district to get back to basics, especially after COVID.  Sattler said, ‘We need focus on all grades, but must do a better job with middle school given studies show success there is a key predictor of success in high school. One size does not fit all. Too many kids leave eighth grade unprepared for the academic rigors of high school.’”

 

“All four are very experienced and combined, bring over five decades of experience working with school staff, students and the community. Like all of our candidates, this slate wants more accountability and balance when it comes to school funding, density and development,” Brinton said, in the release.

In a follow-up email, she said she believes Snedaker and Sattler are Democrats but “more importantly, {all} identify as Norwalkers.”

“We well exceeded the required number of signatures for all of our candidates and did so in record time.  I think it reflects the mood that Norwalkers are ready for change,” Brinton said in the release.

Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said in late July that petitioning BoE candidates would need about 147 signatures. That’s based on a percentage: Gabe Rosenberg, General Counsel to Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said candidates need 1% of the total votes cast in the previous election for the office they’re seeking.

Today, Aug. 4, is the State deadline for petitioning candidates. Rosenberg provided NancyOnNorwalk an updated list Monday morning of candidates who had qualified for the ballot; it did not include any Independents for Norwalk candidates who hadn’t been on his previous list.

First Taxing District

There was one surprise in the list Rosenberg provided Monday: Elsa Peterson Obuchowski has qualified to run for First Taxing District Commissioner as a petitioning candidate. Obuchowski, an incumbent commissioner, tied with former Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Jackie Lightfield in seeking the Democratic endorsement for the post, so there is no Democratic endorsed candidate.

That may change as both Lightfield and Obuchowski have pulled petitions to force a primary, Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said. It’s an entirely different process, with petitions obtained locally instead of from the State and a different calculation for the number of signatures needed, equal to 5% of the Democrats in the district. About 150 signatures are needed and the deadline is Aug. 11.

“My goal is to become the Democratic nominee for First Taxing District Commissioner and appear on the ballot with my fellow Democrats in Row A,” Obuchowski said Wednesday, explaining that if she and Lightfield get enough signatures then there won’t be a Democrat on the ballot. Getting enough signatures was “a safety net strategy to ensure that my name can appear on the ballot.”

Lightfield did not reply to a recent email asking about her candidacy.

Obuchowski is not on Brinton’s list for Independents for Norwalk.

Down ballot

Brinton said Erik Anderson, a former BoE member whose city government also includes a long stint on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and newcomer Jeff Rollings, an intellectual property attorney, are both running for Constable. That pits them against Democrats Ernie Dumas (incumbent), Jalin Sead (incumbent), Beth Siegelbaum and Johnnie Mae Weldon (incumbent) and Republicans Ray Cooke, Peter Bondi (incumbent), John Romano (incumbent) and Frank Mauro (incumbent).

Norwalk has seven constables. It’s a paying role, an independent contractor-style position.

“Long time Norwalk resident and Oak Hills Park Authority member, Denise Brown and Jo Bennett, a marketing professional also serving on Norwalk’s Human Rights Commission and member of the Norwalk Emergency Response Team are both running for Selectman,” the Independents for Norwalk news release said.

Democrats endorsed incumbents Andy Garfunkel and Samuel Pride for Selectman. Republicans did not present a candidate.

The offices of Constable, Sheriff and Treasurer have been described as “largely ceremonial” and would have been eliminated in 2016 had the then-proposed charter revision been approved by the electorate. Brinton led the charge in defeating the charter revision.

Council candidates

The news release also named four Council candidates, who were previously outed in a list provided by Rosenberg.

  • District A candidate Chris Morales needed about 28 signatures to qualify, and will run against Democrats David Huevelman (incumbent) and Nicole Ayers and Republicans Luis Estrella and Cheryl Kemeny, Alexandra Kemeny’s sister.
  • District C candidate Scott Goodwin needed about 17 signatures to qualify. His Democratic opponents aren’t certain, as incumbent Council member John Kydes and Jennifer McAllister won the Town Committee endorsement but likely face a primary battle with Tyler Fairbairn and Jen McMurrer. Republicans endorsed Read Auerbach.
  • District D candidate Heather Dunn needed about 42 signatures. Republicans endorsed incumbent Tom Keegan and Democrats gave the nod to Diane Jellerette and Heidi Alterman. No primary is expected, although incumbent George Tsiranides had sought reelection.
  • District E candidate Heather Schneider needed about 39 signatures and will face Democratic incumbents Lisa Shanahan and Tom Livingston along with Republican candidate Andrew Anello.

 

Andy Meyerson is running for Sixth Taxing District Commissioner as an “Independent for Norwalk” against Democratic candidate Priscilla Feral and Republican candidate Gilbert Kernan.

Brinton has explained that she is establishing a new independent party for Norwalk and will be able to hold an endorsement meeting in two years, as the Republican and Democratic town committees do now. Independents for Norwalk is said to be a political action committee (PAC).

Still to come: Working Families Party endorsements.

 

Ballot preview

Mayor

  • Harry Rilling, Democrat, incumbent
  • Jonathan Riddle, Republican

Town Clerk

  • Rick McQuaid, Republican incumbent, cross-endorsed by Democrats

Board of Education at large

(Four seats available)

  • Colin Hosten, Democrat, incumbent
  • Kara Baekey, Democrat
  • Sheri McCready Brown, Democrat
  • Janine Randolph, Democrat
  • Shirley Mosby, Independents for Norwalk
  • Alex Kemeny, Independents for Norwalk
  • Jody Sattler, Independents for Norwalk
  • Katherine (Price) Snedaker, Independents for Norwalk

Common Council at large

(Five seats available)

  • Barbara Smyth, Democrat, incumbent
  • Greg Burnett, Democrat, incumbent
  • Dominique Johnson, Democrat, incumbent
  • Josh Goldstein, Democrat
  • Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, Democrat
  • Enrique Santiago, Republican
  • Richard Bonenfant, Republican
  • Matthew Merluzzi, Republican
  • Lisa Brinton, Independents for Norwalk

 

Council District A

(Two seats available)

  • David Heuvelman, Democrat, incumbent
  • Nicol Ayers, Democrat
  • Luis Estrella, Republican
  • Cheryl Kemeny, Republican
  • Chris Morales, Independents for Norwalk

 

Council District B

(Two seats available)

  • Darlene Young, Democrat, incumbent
  • Diana Révolus, Democrat, incumbent

 

Council District C

(Two seats available)

  • (Democrats will have two candidates but their identities are uncertain, as endorsed candidates John Kydes, incumbent, and Jennifer McAllister face a primary challenge from Tyler Fairbairn and Jenn McMurrer)
  • Read Auerbach, Republican
  • Scott Goodwin, Independents for Norwalk

Council District D

(Two seats available)

  • Tom Keegan, Republican, incumbent
  • Diane Jellerette, Democrat
  • Heidi Alterman, Democrat
  • Heather Dunn, Independents for Norwalk

 

Council District E

(Two seats available)

  • Lisa Shanahan, Democrat, incumbent
  • Tom Livingston, Democrat, incumbent
  • Andrew Anello, Republican
  • Heather Schneider, Independents for Norwalk

 

 First Taxing District Commissioner

  • (A primary for the Democratic endorsement is expected between incumbent Elsa Peterson Obuchowski and Jackie Lightfield)
  • Karen Doyle Lyons, Republican
  • Elsa Peterson Obuchowski, independent, incumbent

 

First Taxing District Treasurer

  • Rosa Murray, Democrat, incumbent
  • John Miller, Republican

 

Second Taxing District Commissioner

  • Sandra Stokes, Democrat, incumbent
  • Mary Mann, Democrat, incumbent

 

Second Taxing District Treasurer

  • Darlene Young, Democrat, incumbent

 

Third Taxing District Commissioner

  • Johnnie Mae Weldon, Democrat, incumbent
  • Suzanne Buffone, Republican

Third Taxing District Treasurer

  • Read Auerbach, Republican

 

Sixth Taxing District Commissioner

  • Priscilla Feral, Democrat
  • Gilbert Kernan, Republican
  • Andy Meyerson, Independents for Norwalk

 

Selectman

  • Andy Garfunkel, Democrat, incumbent
  • Samuel Pride, Democrat, incumbent
  • Shannon O’Toole Giandurco,  Republican
  • Kathryn Martino, Republican
  • Denise Brown, Independents for Norwalk
  • Jo Bennett, Independents for Norwalk

 

City Sheriff

  • Bobby Burgess, Democrat, incumbent
  • Ron Paladino, Republican
  • Joe Maddafari, Independents for Norwalk

 

Constable

(Seven seats available)

  • Ernie Dumas, Democrat, incumbent
  • Jalin Sead, Democrat, incumbent
  • Beth Siegelbaum, Democrat,
  • Johnnie Mae Weldon, Democrat, incumbent
  • Ray Cooke, Republican, incumbent
  • Peter Bondi, Republican, incumbent
  • John Romano, Republican, incumbent
  • Frank Mauro, Republican, incumbent
  • Erik Anderson, Independents for Norwalk
  • Jeff Rollings, Independents for Norwalk

 

City Treasurer

  • Joe Tamburri, incumbent
  • Jerry Petrini, Republican

Story updated at 2:34 p.m. and 5:05 p.m. with more information.

15 comments

Accountability Please August 4, 2021 at 6:11 am

The only thing I want to know from these board of education nominees is are they going to actually do their jobs and hold the super accountable for her actions? The current board doesn’t seem to recognize that they are elected to represent the people of this city and our children. Not be be her cheering squad. I know I am not the only person disgusted by the total lack of accountability taking place. Where are those new hire salaries?

David Osler August 4, 2021 at 6:46 am

I was hoping you could update the article with the seats on each location being voted on I quite honestly forgot them how many console large seats and Constable seats they are and if I remember correctly some of the districts have multiple seats I think it’s two

Fred Wilms August 4, 2021 at 9:20 am

Hi Nancy,

Please add the following GOP candidates to your roster:
Andrew Anello – District E Council (replaces Andy Conroy, who has withdrawn)
John Miller – First District Treasurer
Read Auerbach – Third District Treasurer
Kathryn Martino – Selectman
Shannoon O”Toole Giandurco – Selectman

milbank August 4, 2021 at 10:40 am

“In a follow-up email, she said she believes Snedaker and Sattler are Democrats but “more importantly, {all} identify as Norwalkers.””

So, what Brinton, a Republican, is doing is running a couple of acquiescent Democrats on her slate in order to legitimize her “party” and get at least a couple of Republicans on the BoE under a different party alias. That’s the only way they could get elected. Cute.

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski August 4, 2021 at 11:55 am

It came to my attention that a member of the District A Democratic committee was told this morning, based on this article, that I am “running as an independent.” This is not true.
To clarify: My goal is to become the Democratic nominee for First Taxing District Commissioner and appear on the ballot with my fellow Democrats in Row A. I am fully committed to doing the work to make that happen.
However, I’m aware that there can only be a Democratic candidate in Row A if either my opponent or myself (or both) succeed in gathering the required number of Primary Petition signatures from registered Democratic voters in the district. If we both succeed, there will be a primary on September 14 and the voters of the district will decide on the nominee.
If neither of us succeeds in submitting the required number of valid signatures, there will be no Democratic candidate for Commissioner on Row A. Therefore I submitted the required number of Nominating Petition signatures as a safety net strategy to ensure that my name can appear on the ballot.

James Cahn August 4, 2021 at 3:30 pm

Lisa is my friend and I was the campaign manager for her first mayoral run. Lisa is a lot of things. Trust me; “a Republican” is not one of them. Credit is due the Norwalk Republicans, though. Their public check-in with, “We have some candidates, too” is about as responsive as I’ve seen them.

Bobby Lamb August 4, 2021 at 10:32 pm

Excuse me Ms. Obuchowski but it sounds to me like you want to be on the ballot in November regardless of whether you win or lose a primary. If you lose the primary will you commit to removing yourself from the independent line in November? If you are participating in a primary you should respect the outcome and not circumvent it if you lose.

Add My Vote to Accountability Please August 5, 2021 at 7:52 am

The current board has been derelict in its duty to provide supervision of the superintendent. (BTW, where is the superintendent’s evaluation?) A vote for Colin Hosten, the current board of education chairperson, is a vote for someone who doesn’t have a clue about leadership for the board and responsibility to the citizens of Norwalk. I’ll make the assumption that he is a good person, but he has a job to do, and it isn’t getting done. I’m not reading much from the other board members either.

I echo the earlier request for the list of new hires and their salaries. I think the public will be horrified to learn how much of the city’s money is being spent irresponsibly.

Steve Mann August 5, 2021 at 10:57 am

@milbank, there are still some people who vote based on the candidates abilities, and not solely on political affiliation.

milbank August 6, 2021 at 7:50 am

@Steve Mann, @Nancy Guenther Chapman, anyone who claims membership in or affiliation with the Republican party today betrays judgement and values I would not want as a representative and decision maker of any sort in Norwalk government. “A rose by any other name. . .”.

Erik Anderson August 7, 2021 at 5:16 pm

@milbank and others, I wonder where your outcry is at the Democratic party endorsing an actual Republican, Rick McQuaid. I mean this as no disrespect to Rick, more to question what I see as sheer hypocrisy. I’ve know Lisa for many years and even if she was a Republican, I would still support her. I am a proud Democrat that wants what is best for our city and the current incumbency is seriously lacking for myself and many others in Norwalk.

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