Updated, 12 p.m.
By Nancy Guenther Chapman
NORWALK, Conn. – There may be three hats in the ring for Norwalk Common Council president race, one council member says.
David Watts (D-District A) said in an email, “Things are up in the air. Warren (Peña) has been doing the polling. It could be three names tomorrow.”
Peña said in an e-mail that he thinks Republican Mayor Richard Moccia wants Carvin Hilliard (D-District B) to be president for the second year in a row, “I don’t think the Republican caucus is too happy about that,” he said.
The Republican caucus is broken, Peña said, adding, “How the heck are you going to have a Republican Mayor that wants a Democrat as council president and you have the majority? Obviously, Moccia is intimidated by his fellow Republicans.”
Watts said that last year, with a Democratic majority, Moccia arranged to make Hilliard the president. ”The mayor was comfortable with Carvin,” Watts said. “So he asked Carvin. Carvin said yes. … Carvin came to our organizational meeting, he said, ‘Well, you know, I already have the votes on it.’ We were like, ‘We haven’t voted on it yet, what are you talking about?’”
Anna Duleep (D-At Large) went on to nominate Hilliard at the Nov. 22, 2011, council meeting. Watts said Democrats decided to go along with it. “He clearly had the eight votes lined up,” Watts said. “That was the mayor’s decision. That’s how he became council president.”
The only council member to vote no on Hilliard’s nomination was Bruce Kimmel (D-District D). “I had nothing to do with the shenanigans that led to Hilliard being president,” Kimmel said in an e-mail. “I voted against him because I knew he was not the real choice of the caucus.”
This year, Watts thought that several Republicans wanted the post – hence, the indecision represented by the election of Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) majority leader at the last meeting, but no action taken on president.
“I know it’s contested because they pushed it into December,” he said late last month. “Believe you me, they’re usually better organized.”
Peña said, “I think they are delaying the decision because Hempstead should have the position, the mayor wants Carvin, (Michael) Geake wants it because he might feel that he is entitled and then you have (Nick) Kydes and (David) McCarthy that want it or some type of leadership role.”
Duleep also believes that Moccia wants Hilliard to be president again. Her thoughts are outlined in the letter below.
Peña opposes Hilliard for the post.”One, he made a commitment to my caucus to only serve one term, we will hold him accountable there,” he said in his e-mail. “Two, I think all council members agree that he should not be the face of our council and our city. Three, he has not been a leader at all, just shakes his head up and down at the mayor and rubber stamps Moccia’s agenda.”
Moccia commented last year that council president is a key position, adding that Hilliard would meet businesses thinking of coming to Norwalk.
Watts agreed it’s a key post. “With council president comes a lot of responsibility,” he said. “If something should happen to the mayor, that person becomes mayor,” Watts said. “That person can go inside the mayor’s office, put his feet up, use the computer and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. They might view that as a position that’s worthy of fighting for.”