NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Republicans voted to oust long-time registrar Karen Doyle Lyons Thursday, nominating John Federici as their candidate in the fall election, leaving Federici “humbled” and Doyle Lyons’ husband angry.
“Democracy works,” said Doyle Lyons, promising to seek the will of a broader pool of voters in an August primary.
There were 57 ballots cast at the Republican Town Committee meeting held in the Norwalk Inn. RTC Chairman Pete Torrano declined to share the vote total but said Federici won. Three women counted the ballots several times, he said.
“It was close,” Doyle Lyons said.
Federici has never run for office before.
“I never thought, going back to living on Wall Street, growing up there and having my father carry me up Mill Hill during the flood, 55 – scrawny little kid, rain coming down, didn’t know if we were going to make it – thinking 59 years later I’d be running for anything like this, and here I am a candidate. Never thought I would do it. I have and I really appreciate you supporting me,” Federici said to the crowd, after winning the contest.
Later, Federici said that “many people in this room” had been asking him to run, going back six years. Doyle Lyons has been registrar for 13.5 years.
A letter left on all the seats in the room explained Doyle Lyons’ qualifications.
“I have learned every aspect of the office and the position, the laws that must be followed and have carried out every duty successfully in over 13 elections and many primaries,” Doyle Lyons wrote. “I have created new responsibilities and procedures, brought in and administered new technologies. Moreover, I have continued to educate myself and others… Because of my professionalism I have been appointed by the secretary of state. I am one of only two registrars who go to other municipalities throughout Connecticut to teach and educate new registrars and election official facilitators. This opportunity not only benefits these municipalities, but also Norwalk as I often come away with valuable teaching a resources and election procedures to share with our city.”
A source who declined to be identified said Republicans blame Doyle Lyons for dwindling membership. The source suggested that it might have to do more with former Chairman Art Scialabba “threatening excommunication” than anything Doyle Lyons did or didn’t do.
Doyle Lyons’ husband, Dan Lyons, was not so circumspect.
“You’ve been bought, Carol,” he said to District A Chairwoman Carol Andreoli, after Federici accepted the nomination.
Andreoli was leading the charge even though she used to be friends with Doyle Lyons, the source said. Andreoli is the author of a letter going around, urging Republicans to vote for Federici, the source said, expressing shock at the content.
“I did support John Federici, but I have the utmost respect for Karen as well,” Andreoli said, when asked about the allegations.
She walked a short distance, only to be confronted by Mr. Lyons.
“It’s democracy,” she said.
“I have lost all my respect for you,” Lyons said. “God bless you. Sleep on that tonight.”
“I watched her over the past year or so and unfortunately she’s very two-faced,” he said. “But that’s politics. I’ve been in it for a long time. I know what happens. I think there’s a faction that wants to remove Karen. John Federici and Peter Torrano are joined at the hip. It’s obvious to everyone. That’s been said to me by other Republicans.”
That prompted a fuller comment from Doyle Lyons, which she described as a compliment to the former RTC chairman.
“The thing is, Art Scialabba at least was neutral when there was two people,” she said. “… That’s not so with Mr. Torrano and with Carol Andreoli.”
Federici said he has been involved in Norwalk Republican politics since 1995, when a friend, Kevin Fitzgerald, asked him to be the treasurer on his campaign as a Common Council candidate. Fitzgerald won, and Federici went on the join the RTC and become District C vice chairman, when Torrano was chairman, he said. In 2001 he became RTC vice chairman he said, serving four years under Scialabba. Then former Mayor Richard Moccia asked him to be on the Parking Authority. He was told it would be a conflict of interest to be RTC vice chairman so he resigned, he said. He later was appointed to the Board of Estimate and Taxation.
Federici said that he didn’t take people up on their offer to run for registrar because, in part, he didn’t think it would be appropriate while Moccia was in office, as it would be a distraction.
“I wasn’t ready,” Federici said. “I just didn’t have the interest. Some of it had to do with putting the mayor on the spot, putting a race together through his administration. … Why ruffle it? And I wasn’t ready for it.”
Now that Moccia isn’t mayor he decided to go for it, he said.
“I thought about it,” he said. “I need something different. I’ve been in this mix, know the politics pretty good, know the people, a lot of friends in this room, let me give it a shot now. Let me try it, see what happens. If they say go ahead, I’ll put 100 percent of my ability into it.”
Federici is a printer, working at Professional Graphics, which, he said, is his brother’s business. He is a former member of the Sons of Italy, the South Norwalk Boat Club and a chess club, he said.
He told RTC members that he was “truly honored and humbled.”
“I appreciate the confidence you have in me to do the job as many of you know, when I commit to something I will follow through to the best of my abilities,” he said. “I have worked on many campaigns and quite frankly never had any vision of running for office but as they say, never say never, and felt this was the right time.”
Doyle Lyons later released a statement by email.
“Tonight the RTC members endorsed John Federici for the office of Registrar of Voters,” she wrote. “That is Democracy at work. Only the RTC voted tonight. We will bring this decision to the voters that have registered in the Republican Party. They will make the final decision, as it should be.
“I run on my qualifications and experience. I would hope to have a debate with Mr. Federici on his experience and qualifications also. The voters deserve that.”