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Norwalk election roundup: New girls club; Brinton’s blanks

Victorious Norwalk Democrats enjoy a photo op Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

The 2021 Election was today, Tuesday, Nov. 2.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some notes about the election:

  • Nine women on the Common Council – wow!
  • Brinton vows to continue
  • Comparing vote counts in city-wide races
  • WFP calls results a mandate

 

Firsts

National news stories tout breakthroughs for women in Tuesday’s election, such as Michelle Wu becoming the first woman and person of color elected to be Boston’s Mayor.

Well, Norwalk has its own breakthrough – a Common Council that is majority female. Out of 15 Council members, nine will be female when the winners are sworn in.

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez took note of this Wednesday in a Facebook post, quoting the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as saying there would be “enough” women on the Supreme Court “When there are nine.” Meaning, if all of the justices were female, that would be “enough.”

“Norwalk’s NINE women are now the majority on the Norwalk Common Council!!!! These amazing women and the great men who were honored to be on such a historic slate with them are ready to get to work (some back to work) for our beautiful CITY,” Melendez wrote.

It didn’t have to be, as the Republican slate for Council was entirely male. But after the Democratic near-sweep Tuesday, incumbent Democratic female Council members Barbara Smyth, Dominique Johnson, Darlene Young, Diana Révolus and Lisa Shanahan are set to be joined by Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, Nicol Ayers, Jenn McMurrer and Heidi Alterman.

In addition, Johnson is an incumbent but she was appointed to the Council in early 2019, after Colin Hosten was appointed to fill Bruce Kimmel’s seat on the Board of Education. Her success Tuesday marks the first time an open female LGBTQ candidate won election, Melendez said.

The female wave has also hit the Board of Education, which has gone from having five female members to having six. That was a foregone conclusion, though, as all the BoE candidates were women.

 

 

Brinton releases statement, cites ‘polarization’

Some people would rather not vote for anyone than vote for an independent, Lisa Brinton said, vowing to continue trying.

Brinton founded Independents for Norwalk in June, promising an “array of independent-minded candidates focused on Norwalk—not the current more hard-lined, two party system—for the expressed purpose of focusing on Norwalk residents, its neighborhoods and city services.”

All but one of Brinton’s candidates failed to win elected office Tuesday. The sole winner, Andy Meyerson, will serve as a Sixth Taxing District Commissioner. Brinton herself fell well short of becoming a Common Council member, coming in last among a field of nine.

What does Brinton say? She wrote:

“Norwalk remains a 24/25 city for major offices.  Turnout much lower than 2019, when I ran for mayor on the R line (~14,000 vs 16,000 votes.) Loyalty to party remains more important than Norwalk.

Good news/bad news.  First, thank you to our supporters!!! We secured enough votes to establish the Independent Party in Norwalk & Andy Meyerson is our Independent 6TD Commissioner!

“The bad news: our 14 candidates, including myself came up short.  There’s been another Dem sweep, with data suggesting Dems & Republicans stayed with their own. Despite not having a full slate of candidates, or any BOE candidates, Republicans did NOT vote Independent. We lost to BLANK ballots. 🤣 That’s right. Rs preferred to NOT VOTE & let the Rilling Administration win down ticket than vote Independent.

“My failure to move Rs to the center, as Dems move further left, highlights the growing polarization of our city & country.  Compromise may just be a 4-letter word.

“Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We may have to chip away at Blue dog Dems, if Rs would rather lose than compromise. Expect more fortress apartments, tax credits & overcrowded streets & classrooms.

“I’ll analyze the voter data & report back, but after 9 months of paperwork & campaigning, I’m headed for a break!  However, Congrats Andrew Meyerson & thank you Rowayton for ‘getting’ what we’re trying to do.  “We have 2 years to figure it out!!”

 

There were 15,000 blanks in yesterday’s Council at Large race, according to Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells. NancyOnNorwalk’s records don’t show blank info for 2019 or 2017, but in 2015, out of 13,449 ballots cast there were 7,739 blanks in the Council at Large tally.

The Board of Education race saw 13,712 blanks Tuesday, Wells’ spreadsheet shows.

Adding up the figures in the spreadsheet provided by Wells shows 14,686 total ballots were cast Tuesday. If you’re thinking there were more blanks than ballots, remember, voters could mark off slots for up to five Council at large candidates, of which there were nine.

Wells explained Friday, “A ‘blank’ represents an unused vote. If you vote for four candidates in a race, like Common Council At Large, where you can vote for up to five candidates, the unused vote is counted by the tabulator as one ‘blank.’”

He said, “So, assume approximately 8,000 Dem votes all used all their CC at large votes. – no blanks so far. Then assume 5,000 Rep votes all voted for the 3 Rep CC at large candidates, leaving 2 votes each unused. That would be 10,000 blanks. And assume that the remaining 1,000 Independent voters only voted for Ms Brinton, leaving 4 votes each unused. That would be 4,000 more blanks.”

It’s the same issue with the Board of Education candidates and in addition, they were on the other side of the ballot.

Wells hasn’t confirmed the 14,686 total ballots nor said how many ballots were cast in 2019.

NancyOnNorwalk’s records show 15,829 votes cast in the 2019 Mayor’s race. Tuesday’s Mayoral race had 14,629 votes cast.

Brinton said, “We effectively lost to the ‘Blank Party.’”

 

Let’s look at numbers

Common Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) reacts to Tuesday’s election results, shortly after walking into the Hilton Garden Inn.

There may have been less ballots cast Tuesday than in 2019, but one Council member got more votes this year than he did in the previous municipal election.

  • Greg Burnett in 2019: 7,921
  • Greg Burnett in 2021: 8,217

 

The only other Council member to run city-wide again was Barbara Smyth.

  • Barbara Smyth in 2019: 9,578
  • Barbara Smyth in 2021: 7,725

 

Republican Council candidate Rich Bonenfant ran city-wide in 2019 and again Tuesday.

  • Rich Bonenfant in 2019: 6,874
  • Rich Bonenfant in 2021: 5,970

 

Brinton’s Independent BoE candidates got more votes in city-wide races than she did.

  • Jody Sattler 4,212
  • Alex Kemeny 4,190
  • Katherine (Price) Snedaker 3,982
  • Shirley Mosby 3,815
  • Lisa Brinton 3,698

 

As a Republican-endorsed Mayoral candidate in 2019, Brinton got 7,031 votes, 1,879 more than Republican Mayoral candidate Jonathan Riddle did Tuesday. In 2017, as an unaffiliated Mayoral candidate in a four-way race, Brinton got 3,238 votes.

 

Working Families Party toots horn

Sarah Ganong, Campaigns Director for the Connecticut Working Families Party (WFP), released this statement regarding Norwalk’s municipal election results:

“For the past few years, Norwalk has made a commitment to inclusive growth and expanded opportunity. They have made investments in education, worked to expand access to affordable housing, and smart growth, focused on racial equity.

“Today voters resoundingly supported these commitments.  With their election victory today, WFP-endorsed candidates Sheri McCready Brown, Josh Goldstein, Greg Burnett, Sr, Tom Livingston, Dominique E. Johnson, Lisa Shanahan, David B. Heuvelman, Barbara Smyth, Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, Janine W. Randolph, Colin Hosten, Diana Révolus, Kara Baekey, Darlene Young, Heidi Alterman, Jenn McMurrer, and Mayor Harry Rilling have a clear mandate to continue pursuing policies that make inclusive growth and shared opportunity their main priority.

“WFP wants to congratulate all the winners. We look forward to working together in the coming years for a better Norwalk.”

Updated 12:40 p.m.: More information.

11 comments

Stuart Wells November 5, 2021 at 7:46 am

A “blank” represents an unused vote. If you vote for four candidates in a race, like Common Council At Large, where you can vote for up to five candidates, the unused vote is counted by the tabulator as one “blank”. If someone voted for only one candidate in that race then there would be four blanks recorded. The point is that the tabulator numbers always “add up” – blanks plus candidate votes plus write-ins always equals the number of ballots cast in a “vote for one” race and twice the number of ballots cast in a “vote for two” race, and so forth.
The spreadsheet with preliminary numbers was prepared and sent out on Tuesday night. I don’t have any numbers to enter until the polls close and results are brought back, meaning that I start around 9:00 p.m. after already a 16 hour work day and I don’t have all the information about the few ballots that have to be hand-counted – which is why the numbers are preliminary.
Then, after less than four hours sleep I have to enter all the numbers into the state reporting system. There are close to 9,000 data points to enter. It takes a while, and lack of sleep is an issue. I finished about 4:00 p.m. yesterday, at which point the head moderators stopped by, reviewed things and approved submitting the numbers to the state.
I will answer your emails today — I didn’t even have time to look at them Wednesday or Thursday. Please understand that not one results number from any ballot is initially recorded anywhere electronically. Every one is entered from a hard-to-read paper tape by hand into two different systems (so that they can be compared and typos found). The absentee ballot tape and the Election Day registration tape are each about 24 FEET long and the tapes from the polling places add up to 24 feet. Did I mention that the state system which shows the public pretty numbers is designed in such a way that it is easy to make data entry errors and has no cross-check capability to help one find those errors. That is one reason I also use an additional spreadsheet — I build in a cross-check capability to it – based on formulas comparing the ballots cast to the votes and blanks, etc. If the numbers add up, the formulas report a “zero” difference.
I used that spreadsheet to compare totals with the state results and found (and corrected) some data entry errors AND some places where the state system had dropped numbers which I had entered and saved properly. I reported the problem to the state and they were able to see it – not why it happened yet, but that it was happening.
This weekend I will prepare my one-page results sheet which looks like a ballot and has the total vote for each candidate. I prepare this at home because my home computer has the necessary software, but I have to print it at the office because my home printer can’t print on 11″ x 17″ paper.

Susan November 5, 2021 at 8:00 am

Remembering not all that long ago when I was the ONLY woman elected to the Common Council (until Independents appointed a woman to fill vacancy). Nice to see progress!

milbank November 5, 2021 at 10:01 am

Brinton said, “We effectively lost to the ‘Blank Party.’”

i·ro·ny
/īronē/

a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

Stuart Garrelick November 5, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Glad to hear that Lisa Brinton will keep going.
I am a registered Democrat but do not agree with our Mayor that one party rule is OK as long as we are the one party. There is more than one point of view in Norwalk and where is honest debate to take place if not in our Common Council? Maybe in the NON comments. But that is not enough.

piberman November 5, 2021 at 1:42 pm

Some of us remember when we had a female Mayor for one term. And when Independents, Republicans and Democrats actively socialized with each other in friendly rivalry but always mindful of being the War Generation and seeking the American Dream for ourselves, family and City. When we collectively moved heaven and earth to make our public schools the best they could be.

Times change. Norwalk we hardly “know ye”. Past surely is not prologue. With whites now just 50% of our population will we ever see Black and Latino residents be elected to major positions in our City ? It’s a good question. Will our children ever settle here as they once did.

Some old timers look back and see that Norwalk “had a good run”. Times change.

David Muccigrosso November 5, 2021 at 1:52 pm

FWIW, the Independents had MY vote. Norwalk Democrats operate as a mindless blob; there’s no rhyme or reason, let alone genuine progressivism, to the way policy lurches around here in Norwalk, besides protectionism, cronyism, and favors to special interests. All I see is Norwalk getting sold out to big developers instead of actually fixing our housing crisis or building a resilient community.

It’s ironic, because I could even be mistaken for a Republican when I say that my experience of living in SoNo is that it’s a great neighborhood DESPITE Rilling and Norwalk Dems and their mismanagement of government. But government isn’t the enemy. A sadly outdated electoral system that discourages people from voting or dissenting because they already know the outcome, IS the enemy. We basically are at the mercy of a band of cronies who just associate themselves with whichever brand of national politics is locally popular for several decades at a time.

Norwalk deserves better.

Jodi November 5, 2021 at 3:09 pm

Congrats to alll! Hey i was wondering, i was walking my dog in my neighborhood walking down Merrill Street. The street is about 1000 ft. long. Watched 3 city employees plant 10 new trees with 9 of them within 5 -6 feet below phone, cable and electric wires!?!? Who do you have to know in office to get 10 new trees planted during these horrible fiscal times? Just curious!

Taxpayer November 5, 2021 at 11:08 pm

Police union endorsement of Harry is peculiar. A time of mask mandates and vaccine requirements, police accountability laws and Bob Duff.

John O'Neill November 6, 2021 at 7:28 am

Our school system is in disasrray but we keep voting for the same people to oversee things. If it wasn’t so serious it would be a joke.

Georgie P. November 9, 2021 at 2:41 pm

I’d also like to add – congratulating yourself for winning in an election as a DEMOCRAT in CONNECTICUT is a joke. Every year these Democrat cronies cheer that they won. And CT continues to go down the drain. Might as well congratulate the sky for being blue today.

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