NORWALK, Conn. – Among Norwalk’s beleaguered Republicans, struggling to come to terms with an election in which they were all but shut out, there seems to be widespread agreement: Happy Days Aren’t Here Again. Beyond that, perspectives vary.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Mark Suda thinks the tide will change; former RTC Chairman Victor Cavallo, who was ousted after the 2017 election disaster, speaks of scapegoating and pessimism that what he sees as deep structural issues in the RTC can be repaired. Exiting Common Council member Doug Hempstead recommends rebranding and “distancing” from national issues, while former RTC Chairman Pete Torrano calls attempts to associate local Republicans with President Donald Trump a smokescreen.
Here’s a sampling:
‘What can I say?’
Suda sent out an email blast to the Town Committee two days after the election, in which he listed the Republicans who won on Nov. 5:
- Richard A McQuaid – Town Clerk
- Thomas Keegan – District D Council
- Read Auerbach – Third Taxing District Treasurer
- Shannon O’Toole Giandurco – Selectman
- Frank Mauro – Constable
- Peter Bondi – Constable
- Tamsen C.Langalis – Sixth Taxing District Commissioner
- Gilbert Kernan – Sixth Taxing District Treasurer
Translation: Republicans won one Council seat, no Board of Education seats and lost a hard-fought Mayoral contest. Suda wrote:
“Well RTC what can I say?
“…While I spent the day at the polls, I heard and saw people proud of what we stand for and the change that is needed for Norwalk. I also saw pure hatred for our President. This in turn may have led to fewer Republican votes no matter what our candidates’ platforms were.
“…These are very tough times as we speak for our candidates to get elected in this city. The free passes, broken promises, and its “so great to be a millennial attitude” to live in this city is going to wear out over time and hurt this great City. It is already hurting the middle class hardworking citizens that are just trying to keep up with the Jones’ and are just trying to stay afloat to pay their bills.
“I truly believe over the next few years the tides will change and the people will wake up and see when their services are cut, taxes go up, and the small change that they were able to save in their pockets have to be spent.”
Witch hunts and scapegoating
NancyOnNorwalk reached out to former RTC Chairmen. That included Cavallo, who was sacked in March 2018 after nearly identical election results. Cavallo wrote:
“I’m not so sure that the Norwalk RTC deep state in 2017 could have deluded itself to expect better results with a freshman chairman as opposed to looking to fulfill the hunt for a witch on whom to cast blame for the RTC’s political misfortunes.
“Since 2017, the scapegoating has become increasingly more intense and irrepressible. I was the only witch in 2017, blamed for the mayoral loss and the 14-1 rout of the council elections; this because I wouldn’t endorse and enforce a backroom deal to substitute one mayoral candidate for another just one month before the election; a deal that wasn’t honored by the then Republican mayoral candidate.
“In 2018, when I was out of the picture, the scapegoating was heaved upon Nancy on Norwalk – blamed for the 25th senatorial district loss and sued for good measure – along with assigning blame to a fictive rock thought to possess enough witchy powers to capture the attention of the electorate.
“In 2019, the witch hunt evolved to the ridiculous: spanning the divide from the President of the United States to the Norwalk Registrar of Voters.
“Whether my successor will be scapegoated for the 2018 and 2019 election losses remains to be seen.
“I had recused myself from active participation in town committee affairs for the past two election cycles so as to avert any possible blame for the outcome of those elections. I predicted the 2019 municipal election results would mirror 2017. I wasn’t the only one. The factors contributing to the losses are deeply structural and which few if any on the RTC understand and are willing to correct.
“I will have no part in embroiling my successor in a campaign to replace him, if that is the wish of the RTC deep state. The chairmanship of a town committee is an infamously thankless job. Few chairs walk away from the role without being towed, crushed and melted like a junk car. I know. And my empathy is boundless for anyone who has and will succeed me.”
Bringing up Trump at every turn?
Former RTC Chairman Andy Conroy did not reply to an email. Torrano, who has moved to South Carolina, declined to talk about the electoral loss but wrote:
“As for the Trump thing, it’s just a smokescreen put out by those who will say anything to disparage an opposition candidate. There is nobody in Norwalk who runs as a Republican who does it to support Trump. They do it to serve Norwalk. It’s juvenile, but apparently effective to bring up Trump at every turn. “And not just Trump, but the list includes:
“Homophobic, racist, misogynistic, ageism, xenophobic, and any other word that can rile people up. In my opinion it’s offensive to call someone any of these things without solid proof. Oftentimes it it said because someone or some group or community decides someone is any of the aforementioned things based on an opposing position they don’t favor. So rather than debate the issues they hide behind contrived assumptions of offensive thoughts or actions. Easier to slander than to debate.”
‘That’s a big thing’
On Election Night, NancyOnNorwalk asked Hempstead how Republicans would recover from two devastating losses in a row.
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Hempstead said. “…We talked about … rebranding and separating us from the national stuff. Number one. I think that’s a big thing and people don’t get it locally. We’re not focused on the national side. I think it’s trying to make sure people understand that image because, just in my books, the system is rigged by both parties because you have to either be a Republican or Democrat to really ever get on the ballot anywhere. Having been a chairman of an independent party in Norwalk, those are the challenges.”
Republicans have to be “more pointed” with issues are set a platform,” he said. “I’m not sure we were clear in our message on platform.”
Shouldn’t local Republicans have denounced Trump?
“I think it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Hempstead said. “If you go out and say, ‘Trump is a blankety blank’… the hardcore Republicans are going to be ‘you can’t do that.’ Right? But the Dems can say, ‘See?’ They’re not going to support you anyhow. So, it’s a dilemma. What do you do?”
Suda’s email quoted two unsuccessful candidates.
“One of my favorite sayings in life is ‘sometimes the better team loses.’ This time it did,” Scott Vetare, who ran for sheriff, is quoted as saying.
“I would ask all of us to start thinking about how we approach things differently,” Carl Dickens, a District D Council candidate, is quoted as saying. “Cycles indeed change, but we can be the change agent to move that along. Big strides have been made in communication, but much more is needed, both internal and external. Let’s build upon our history, our knowledge base, and the intelligence the RTC has to make us bigger and better than we already are.”