NORWALK, Conn. — New faces – most of them female – mark the Democratic ticket approved Monday, as six incumbents stepped aside ahead of the Democratic Town Committee endorsement vote. In the meeting’s lone note of drama, one long-familiar-yet-unseen-lately face tied with an incumbent seeking reelection, so there may be a primary for First Taxing District Commissioner – between Elsa Peterson Obuchowski (the incumbent) and former Zoning Commission Chairwoman Jackie Lightfield.
“We have a pretty amazing slate,” Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez said. “… Just by a quick count tonight we have nominated 10 women for the Common Council, which I, there’s no way is not historic in some sort of way… and three more women for the Board of Education. That is something you know, huge.”
Incumbent Board of Education member Colin Hosten was endorsed for reelection, with newcomers Kara Baekey, Sheri McCready Brown and Janine Randolph as his running mates. Veteran BoE member Heidi Keyes is not seeking reelection; neither is former Chairwoman Sarah LeMieux and Board member Suzanne Koroshetz, who only stepped in four months ago after Barbara Meyer-Mitchell resigned.
In Common Council surprises, Nicole Ayers was endorsed to be Council member David Heuvelman’s running mate in District A. Incumbent Council member Kadeem Roberts was not nominated Monday; he said he chose not to run for reelection due to the pending criminal charge against him.
Council member George Tsiranides was also not nominated for reelection in District D. Instead, Heidi Alterman and Diane Jellerette got the nod.
A primary is expected in District C: incumbent Council member John Kydes received the endorsement along with Jennifer McAllister, an Oak Hills Park Authority member, without any other nominations from the floor, but challengers Tyler Fairbarn and Jenn McMurrer say they have formed a slate with the intention of forcing a primary.
And, in another cordial note, Republican Town Clerk Rick McQuaid was cross endorsed for reelection and ladled with compliments.
- Harry Rilling, incumbent
- Rick McQuaid, incumbent
Board of Education at large
- Colin Hosten, incumbent
- Kara Baekey
- Sheri McCready Brown
- Janine Randolph
Common Council at large
- Barbara Smyth, incumbent
- Greg Burnett, incumbent
- Dominique Johnson, incumbent
- Josh Goldstein
- Nora Niedzielski-Eichner
Council District A
- David Heuvelman, incumbent
- Nicol Ayers
Council District B
- Darlene Young, incumbent
- Diana Révolus, incumbent
Council District C
- John Kydes, incumbent
- Jennifer McAllister
Council District D
- Diane Jellerette
- Heidi Alterman
Council District E
- Lisa Shanahan, incumbent
- Tom Livingston, incumbent
First Taxing District Treasurer
- Rosa Murray, incumbent
Second Taxing District Commissioner
- Sandra Stokes, incumbent
- Mary Mann, incumbent
Second Taxing District Treasurer
- Darlene Young, incumbent
Third Taxing District Commissioner
- Johnnie Mae Weldon, incumbent
Sixth Taxing District Commissioner
- Priscilla Feral
- Andy Garfunkel, incumbent
- Samuel Pride, incumbent
- Bobby Burgess, incumbent
- Ernie Dumas, incumbent
- Jalin Sead
- Beth Siegelbaum
- Johnnie Mae Weldon
- Joe Tamburri, incumbent
“This is one of the most diverse slates that we’ve ever put forward. This represents Norwalk, and who we are,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.
Board of Education
It’s an “at large” year for BoE candidates, meaning there are four openings.
Hosten was appointed in December 2019 to serve out Bruce Kimmel’s term. He had been elected to the Council.
“He’s an educator” and a “very dedicated member of our community” who “makes sure that voices from various diverse groups are heard,” Esther Murillo said. “More than anything about his resume I think we can always talk about his unbelievable ability to deescalate heated arguments and I think his leadership at the BoE has been spectacular particularly in what is unprecedented times, as we’ve noted, over the past year and a half.”
Randolph “is a fierce advocate for education,” Heuvelman said, explaining that one of Randolph’s daughters recently graduated from Norwalk High and the other is in middle school.
“I’ve known Janine for many years since our kids started in kindergarten together and I know her to be a strong passionate communicator who will work to make our educational system vibrant and thrive as we continue firmly into the 21st century,” Heuvelman said. “She will work hard to ensure that NPS continues on a path of the quality of equity, and as a woman and a woman of color she will represent another positive role model for girls in our district.”
Brown was Norwalk Public Schools public affairs officer years ago and more recently a Board of Estimate and Taxation member, “so I really believe she’s going to be able to bring a balance,” Johnson said. “…When we spoke recently she described the budget document as a moral document, that the budget reflects the needs of the community, and that’s really stayed with me.”
Williams said he knows Baekey through marches against gun violence and for equal rights, and she “has continually presented herself as a tireless observer advocate and executor of goals.” Tina Duryea called Baekey “a really special kind of activist” and said she’s “thrilled beyond measure” that Baekey has stepped up for the Board of Education.
Council At large candidates
Niedzielski-Eichner, an Ethics Commissioner, was nominated by Hosten, who called her a successful attorney, “an engaged citizen, a mother, and very committed to public service.”
“I’ve known her for many years I know her as somebody who works hard,” he said.
Smyth is a “kind and thoughtful individual who really worked very diligently to improve the lives of children, their parents, and to improve the quality of life in Norwalk,” District D Chairwoman Lynne Moore said.
Zoning Commissioner Galen Wells endorsed Goldstein, who is also on the Zoning Commission. Goldstein is “always prepared” and “treats the public with respect,” she said. “And I know as a Common Council person, he would work hard as he possibly can to ensure good non-discriminatory funding of public education.”
Johnson, who was appointed to the Council in January 2020, “takes her representation and duties to all the districts and neighborhoods very seriously,” Pat Tinto said. She met Johnson through Norwalk Women Who Vote, which Johnson co-founded, and “rom the very start, I could tell she was a strong, independent leader, who cares deeply that the future of our city and promoting diversity while increasing civic engagement among women of all political parties.”
Burnett “has been a diligent and prodigious member on the council,” Darius Williams said. “…As Chair of the Finance Committee, he has played a vital role in overseeing our city’s finances and ensuring key city services remained productive even in the midst of a pandemic.”
Council District A
Ayers and Heuvelman were endorsed without comment. Heuvelman is in his first two-year term on the Council; Ayers leads District A.
Afterwards, Roberts told NancyOnNorwalk, “I’m pleased and proud to have served the people of Norwalk, all the people black, white, hispanic, men, women, and children as I respect them all equally.”
He said, “I asked not to be nominated for common council tonight. It would be wrong of me to move forward with my nomination until the charges presently pending against me have been dismissed.”
In December, Roberts was charged with Assault in the Third Degree, Disorderly Conduct, and Interfering with a 911 call.
He said Monday, “Overall, I will continue to stand in the gap and represent this great city, and as John Lewis reminds us, in helping others at times our heads will get bloody, but we will march on.”
District B Council
Young first was appointed to the Council in December 2018, then won election the following year.
Révolus was also appointed. This would be her first electoral win.
District C Council
Kydes, who has been on the Council since 2013, was nominated without comment. Jennifer Balliett nominated McAllister, calling her a “good friend” who is “committed to the City.” McAllister has two boys attending Norwalk Public Schools, has lived here 16 years, and “I know she’ll be a valued member of the Common Council. She has the energy and has carved out the time to commit to it.”
Kydes’ wife Naomi seconded the nomination.
McMurrer and Fairbairn said their slate has three major goals:
- An Equitable Quality of Life in Norwalk for Everyone
- Quality Education and Extracurricular Programs for All Children
- A Strong Strategy for Development in Our City
They plan to get enough signatures on petitions to force a primary and are already running a spirited campaign.
District D Council
Altermann is a nurse with a degree in psychology, Moore said. The Cranbury Elementary School Governance Council member “cares deeply about our city and she’s looking forward to being able to do more work for the City of Norwalk,”
Jellerette is Executive Director of the Norwalk Historical Society and “we’re very fortunate to have someone with this experience in our community coming forward for in District,” Moore said.
The pair are running against the only Republican on the Council, incumbent Tom Keegan. Republicans did not endorse a second candidate.
Tsiranides did not respond to an email asking him for a comment.
District E Council
Shanahan and Livingston got enthusiastic support from Tinto, who called them a team that has made a “tangible difference in our neighborhoods.” Livingston has been impressive in his six years on the Council, listening to all residents, reaching out and keeping his finger on the district’s pulse. Shanahan has “energetic, innovative and not afraid to ask critical questions.”
First Taxing District
Melendez took a role call vote three times in the First Taxing District contest, and it was tied each time. The vote was:
In favor of Peterson Obuchowski
- Elsa Peterson Obuchowski
- Rosa Murray
- Jalin Sead
- Fanny Osorio
In favor of Lightfield
- Charles Nystrom
- David Heuvelman
- Kadeem Roberts
- Laoise King
- Nicole Ayers
Three things could happen, Melendez said. If neither candidate collects signatures on petitions, there will be no Democratic candidate on the ballot. Or, if they both get petitions and only one gets enough signatures, that person will be on the ballot. Finally, if they both get enough signatures, there will be a primary.
To qualify, one or both candidates “must obtain petition signatures of 5% of the Democrats in the district in order to be the nominee of the Democratic Party,” Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said. “If both do so, there will be a primary; if only one does so, that one becomes the party’s nominee. If neither does so, then there is no Democratic party nominee. There are a little over 3,000 enrolled Democrats in the First Taxing District, so the required number of signatures is a little over 150.”
Correction, 1:41 p.m.: Number of signatures needed for primary. Copy edits.