NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Richard Moccia could see no wrong in his administration as he faced the Republican faithful Tuesday night to admit defeat in his bid for his fifth re-election at the hands of former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling.
“I know a lot of people will ask what you think caused the problem,” Moccia said as he conceded at the Norwalk Inn.. “I think there’s a lot of different issues, lot of special interest groups. I think there’s resentment against the Republicans because of the shut down. Some people might have felt that I was here too long, a lot of different reasons. But basically it boils down to they ran a good campaign and they convinced people it was time for a change. I accept that responsibility because I was at the top of the ticket. But I’ve had eight years nobody thought I would ever have and I’m actually more disappointed for my family than for myself.”
Moccia, a former councilman and RTC chairman, won election as mayor in 2005 when he defeated Mayor Alex Knopp by 176 votes.
The crowded ballroom had been without Moccia for about an hour. His wife, Barbara, watched the bad news unfold on News12; Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba came and went, looking solemn.
At about 9:05 p.m. Mrs. Moccia left the ballroom and headed down a hallway with Scialabba. The chairman returned a short while later, wiping a tear from his eye.
When the Moccias returned, the mayor took the microphone and said he had called Rilling to congratulate him.
“We had four great terms,” Moccia said as he conceded at the Norwalk Inn. “We walked out with our heads held high. Obviously when there’s a loss you can look at a lot of different factors but it basically boils down to the top of the ticket and whatever I didn’t do to get the message out. I accept that responsibility. But I do know that I feel that the city has progressed and I am turning over a city that is in good shape to Mayor Elect Rilling.”
He put a bright face on his sudden retirement, which begins in two weeks.
“Tomorrow morning will be a bright day,” he said. “I’ll awake, my feet will hit the ground and I’ll start making sure that the transition to Mayor Elect Rilling goes well. I have no regrets – other than not winning this time.”
Veteran Common Councilman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) shouted, “You were a good steward of this fine city, mayor,” inspiring hoots and applause.
That caused Moccia to smile.
“The next biggest problem I face is where am I going to put all the memorabilia from the office,” he said. “But I don’t want to prolong this anymore. … Now Barbara and I can take a little time and this time we really are riding off into the sunset.”