NORWALK, Conn. – It appears that longtime Democratic Town Committee mover and shaker Brenda Penn-Williams lost out on her bid to be DTC chairwoman because she does not have a law degree. At least that is the reason two DTC members say they chose Attorney Edwin Camacho over the vice chairwoman who, by all accounts, picked up the pieces over the past year after DTC Chairwoman Amanda Brown suffered a black eye in the court of public opinion.
Camacho became DTC chairman last week by one vote on the third ballot. Camacho and Penn-Williams were tied 17-17 on the previous two ballots; when he won, all the African-Americans walked out, sources agree.
Steve Serassis is credited with casting the deciding vote, as it had been tied before he arrived late at the DTC meeting. He arrived in time for the second vote but said he needed time to think about it.
“Voting for Mr. Camacho was a decision I made once I removed from my mind personal relationships, as I am friends with both candidates, and both were outstanding choices,” Serassis wrote in a Facebook message. “I chose Mr. Camacho because he has proven to be a level headed, community based, intelligent person with a law degree. Having an attorney as chair would be beneficial, as I’ve seen legal issues pop up to the DTC over the years and answers weren’t always forthcoming without research. I feel that an experienced Norwalk-based attorney would serve as an advantage in this regard, as well as providing a different analytical perspective, and being liability minded (these are very important points for me).
“Ms. Williams is a wonderful person and leader, which is proven with her NAACP position (second vice president). However pulling double chair duty, in my opinion, would’ve been difficult for anyone with a fulltime job. Dual duties can also have a higher chance of creating controversy. The NDTC can’t afford to take the smallest chance of being in this position. In conclusion, my decision was solely a professional one based on my aforementioned reasons.”
Camacho is a Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) member. He said in his speech that he would need help as he is a busy man, sources agree.
Serassis said he doesn’t think being on the BET is a conflict.
“All the issues facing the BET are responsibilities that must be directly and continuously monitored, as well as analyzed by the respective town committee chairs,” he wrote. “The many duties and responsibilities of being NAACP chair vary greatly in many instances with city business and politically as well.”
Kate Tepper said it was a difficult vote.
“I admire Brenda and know that she has done much good work in the community,” Tepper said in an email. “I finally voted for Camacho because he is a lawyer and I believe his legal background will be advantageous in dealings with the Common Council and committee chairs in addition to the rules and regulations of the NDTC and the state Democratic Party. In addition, Camacho has put his legal background to work — often pro bono — to help minority citizens who are unable to afford lawyer’s fees. For me that means something.”
Tepper said she planned to talk to Camacho with the idea of getting “on with the business of being Democrats.”
“Since a large percentage of the people who voted for Brenda Penn-Williams walked out with her after the vote, I rather fear that there will be some dissension,” she wrote. “I hope that, with a little time, this can be overcome. The election of officers was somewhat difficult, since many of the people who could have been nominated were no longer at the meeting.”
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