NORWALK, Conn. – Yet another Norwalk Democratic council member has elected to caucus with the Republicans.
Common Councilman Carvin Hilliard (District B) says he is joining the Republican caucus and will begin meeting with them Monday evening.
“I feel I can better represent South Norwalk, my constituents, by being in the Republican caucus,” he said. “I get along with the Republicans, I’ve known them over the years and I get along with them.”
Hilliard left the Democratic caucus last June after he was accused of leaking secret conversations to Republican Mayor Richard Moccia, an accusation he strongly denies. He has been without a caucus since then.
Why leap now, after six months without a caucus?
“I decided I wasn’t going back to the Democrats,” he said. “I realized I need to caucus with the Republicans in order to try to get some things done for my constituents in South Norwalk. It’s easier if you are caucusing with them”
Minority Leader Warren Peña said Hilliard’s departure is part of the plan.
“We have been changing the landscape of our party since I joined in 2011,” he said in an email. “This is right in line with our intentions which is to move forward without folks like Carvin being a part of our future. In terms of others, they know they are finished with our party so they need a home.”
Three councilmen, including Hilliard, have left the Democratic caucus since the November 2011 election.
District B Councilman Michael Geake became an unaffiliated member of the council and joined the Republican caucus in March 2012, although he had said in a 2009 Facebook post, “I don’t consider politics to be a team sport where you can play on one side today and the other tomorrow. I am a member of the Democratic Party because of what I believe.”
Geake made the move after his wife was ousted from the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee in a primary.
District D councilman Bruce Kimmel left the Democratic caucus shortly after the election. After more than a year of attending every committee meeting that he could, he joined the Republican caucus in January, stressing that he is still a Democrat.
Hilliard agreed that such departures damage the image of the Norwalk Democratic party. “They should think of that by the way they treat people,” he said. “Yeah – Three people, I agree, that says something but the Democrats were not fair with me. I don’t feel that they like me and there’s no indication that they are going to be fair with me in the future, so why would I – when you caucus with people you have to trust them. I don’t trust the Democrats.”
Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Amanda Brown said District B Democrats may not trust Hilliard anymore.
“Mr. Hilliard has not been treated unfairly by the Democratic Party,” she said. “There are times that we haven’t agreed but on our main issues we are in sync, such as education, crime and environmental justice. Mr. Hilliard should be concerned with the public trust he is potentially breaking with his Democratic voters by such a move, which they haven’t consented to or approved.”
Peña said Democrats lost Hilliard in their first council meeting. “If you recall he was nominated by two Republicans to become council president and has voted with the mayor ever since. The Democratic Caucus never wanted him in a leadership role. In addition, he was reporting our conversations in caucus directly to the mayor and Republican party up until we kicked him out.
“The Dems responded to his unacceptable behavior – he was not treated unfairly, his actions caused a re-action,” Pena said. “Since the 2011 campaign and since being elected, I have not seen Carvin serve his constituents. What I have seen him do is serve the mayor and Republican party.”
Brown cast aspersions on Hilliard’s assertion that he could get more done for South Norwalk by caucusing with Republicans.
“The Republicans have underfunded education for several years to the detriment of the system,” she said in an email. “(They have) promoted the expansion of City Carting’s facility on Meadow Street in a densely populated urban area, adversely affecting the environmental quality of the neighborhood with increased truck traffic – in a kid friendly zone – against Mr. Hilliard’s protest as a Democrat on behalf of his constituents. If Mr. Hilliard says that he has a better chance of getting these important issues passed by caucusing in the room with the Republicans than he had on the council floor, then we wish him well.”
Will he be asked to leave the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee?
“I believe his actions will determine whether or not a letter of resignation is in order,” Brown said in an email. “It will be accepted when he tenders it.”
Correction made, 5:21 p.m.