Norwalk Republicans have swapped out five of the candidates they announced in July for Independent candidates presented by Lisa Brinton in August.
The cross endorsements prompted one jilted candidate to resign from the Republican Executive Committee and sharply criticize Republican Town Committee Chairman Fred Wilms. Former Republican Common Council member Tom Keegan, speaking from Florida, called the developments “so disappointing.”
Republicans have dropped Board of Education candidates Matthew Surapine, Tony Lopez, Caryn Raimondi and Greg Helms, as well as Common Council candidates Liz Tardif (District D) and Maria Borges Lopez (District B).
Instead, Republicans have cross endorsed Independent slate members Alexandra Kemeny (for District A BoE), Rasheemah Richardson (for District B BoE), Nicole Hampton (for District C BoE), Donna Smirniotopoulos (for District B Council) and Heather Dunn (for District D Council).
Kemeny and Hampton have previously been Republican candidates; Richardson is a newcomer who said during the Independents’ Aug. 16 endorsement event that she homeschools her child and looks forward to learning about the school district.
The eliminated Republican candidates were reportedly considered “placeholders,” meant to maintain a Republican slot on the ballot. Districts A and B are heavily Democratic.
It was rumored that District D Council candidate Bryan Meek said he would drop out if Tardif remained on the ballot instead of Dunn.
“Not correct,” Meek said in an email. “I wanted a running mate in-district. Not a placeholder. I defer to the district’s choice.”
Tardif resigned from the Republican Town Committee and from her position as Recording Secretary, which put her on the RTC Executive Committee.
A disgruntled Republican provided Tardif’s Monday emails to NancyOnNorwalk.
“I appreciate Bryan’s position and support him continuing on the council but see the long-term effects as detrimental to the strength of the Republican party – which is the only true hope of stopping the Democrat agenda. Independents have no loyalty to anything other than to undermine whichever party is triggering them in the moment. Next time it could be the Republicans. Time will tell,” she wrote.
Tardif slammed Wilms.
“A strong and effective Republican party is the only hope Norwalk has in thwarting the destructive Democrat policies, but I don’t see us moving in that direction,” Tardiff wrote. “Your comment at the August EC meeting, ‘we don’t care if you show up, just give us your money,’ although possibly said in jest, appears to be indicative of the mindset that is leading the NRTC. A bank balance is useless without people who bring ideas and do the work.”
Tardif said her ideas and efforts have been “continually dismissed and undermined” and “Executive Committee meetings appear to be designed to run out the clock on task-oriented issues and reporting with no time for any meaningful leadership conversation.”
“In my own experience in leading committees, I ﬁnd that people engage and contribute more when their input and efforts are valued and recognized. When a few behave as their opinions are superior and treat others as nothing more than a source for labor and money, participation drops. The apathy from our members is palpable. I attempted to address this with a member survey and a communications committee and both were undermined and dismantled. The latest strategy to boost the Independent party in the election is now causing more discouragement.
“The NRTC needs an agenda, execution strategy and messaging plan to be effective. There is none. I question if this is why we are ‘coupling’ with the Independents who stand for nothing and have no loyalty to the Republican party. RTC members should be told before asking for their money and votes.”
In a phone call, Tardiff declined to comment.
Wilms, in an Monday evening email to NancyOnNorwalk, said:
“The RTC is working with the Norwalk Independent Party to cross endorse a number of candidates. Doing so is nothing new – the RTC cross endorsed with Norwalk Independents in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
“RTC candidates appearing on two lines this November are:
- “Rich Bonenfant – Council at Large
- “Tricia Massucci – Council District A
- “Bryan Meek – Council District D
- “Ernie DesRochers – Council District E
- “Nicole Hampton – BoE District C
- “Alex Kemeny – BoE District A
“Earlier tonight RTC District D voted to cross endorse Heather Dunn for Council District D. Other independent candidates were previously cross endorsed.
“While the overwhelming majority of the RTC is supportive, not everyone is. We appreciated Liz’s service as recording secretary and wish her the best.”
District D leader Doug Hempstead said at Monday’s RTC meeting that D members had quizzed Dunn for an hour and a half the previous week and got to “find out where she’s at. She’s now the endorsed candidate.”
“Liz Tardiff graciously put her name up as a place holder to see if anyone from the Republican side was interested. Liz at that time did not want to seek election,” Hempstead said Thursday in an email. “We did a Q&A with Heather and were overall impressed with her responses. Heather is well informed and when elected will hit the ground running.”
The endorsement was unanimous, he said, adding, “Cross endorsements with Republican and the previous Independent Party of Norwalk to the best of my knowledge started in 1983 and continued till the 2001 election. At that point the Independent Party of Norwalk folded in 2003.”
Keegan was the only successful Republican candidate for major office in 2019 and 2021, succeeding Hempstead on the Common Council. He retired in June 2022 and moved to Florida. Meek was appointed to replace him.
Keegan’s heart is still in Norwalk, he said in a Monday phone call with NoN.
District D decided that Republicans have been losing elections and the best way to make headway is to align with the Independents, “even if it means sacrificing a Republican candidate,” he said. “I don’t believe that that’s the mission, or should be the mission, of the Republican party. I believe the Republican party should support their own members. Any other deal that’s made is in any sense wrong. I don’t think it’s right to in effect coerce someone into resigning their position so that the Republican party can publicly and outwardly endorse someone from another party – doesn’t matter what party.”
The bylaws say the Republican Town Committee supports Republicans, he said. He’s “beyond disappointed” and, “I think it’s a bad decision.”
Updated, 3:23 p.m. Thursday: More information.
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