Correction: Due to inaccurate information from another online source, we erroneous aged Councilman-elect Tom Livingston (D-District E) by 11 years. We have removed his name from the list of the Council over-60 “graybeards” and sincerely apologize. (And full disclosure, the editor, 62, would qualify for that list)
Mark Chapman is NancyOnNorwalk’s editor.
Was it Mayor Harry Rilling’s coattails? Was it all about civility? Was it that the national Republican Party has tainted the brand for independents and the more moderate local voters? Part of an “out-with-the-older” movement?
Maybe it was “E” – all of the above.
Norwalk voters turned out in something less than droves – maybe dribbles – Tuesday to let the sitting city officials know their thoughts.
Remember when former New York City Mayor Ed Koch used to ask “How am I doing?” Norwalk voters answered that question for Rilling Tuesday, giving the Democrat a landslide victory – better than 62 percent of the vote – over the well-liked former Common Councilwoman Kelly Straniti. Rilling commented a number of times throughout the campaign about how Straniti ran a clean, professional, civil bid for his job.
Civility, or lack thereof, was on the minds of District E voters who showed outspoken two-term Councilman David McCarthy the door and ushered in the soft-spoken Tom Livingston in his place. McCarthy and running mate John Bazzano aggressively attacked Livingston and two-term Dem incumbent John Igneri. McCarthy , in particular, became aggressive over placement and alleged theft of campaign lawn signs, and accused his rivals of “elder abuse,” which drew a public rebuke from the elder who said he was not abused.
In District A, which has seen more than its share of controversy over the past four years, voters stuck with the Democrats after stating their case in the primary. Although Republican Rich Bonenfant once served on the Council in A, the district has become solidly Democratic and, from the look of the Council ballots, stuck with the party line. Incumbent Eloisa Melendez, a paragon of civility herself, was the top vote-getter, and the outspoken Steve Serasis, a former Councilman, was right behind despite slipping off the media radar when he was unavailable for debates and forums in the weeks leading into the election due to business commitments.
In normally reliably Republican District D, incumbent Republican Shannon O’Toole Giandurco had a close run to stay onboard, but Mike DePalma, a political newcomer and former star high school baseball player, captured the most votes and the open seat for the Democrats. DePalma, whose father was a two-term Councilman who once ran for mayor, outpolled Giandurco by almost 200 votes.
District C went with what it knew: the affably bi-partisan duo of Republican Michelle Maggio and Democrat John Kydes, both brought back for a second term, with Kydes topping the field with 1,887 votes to Maggio’s 1,616. Maggio’s total was well ahead of her nearest challenger, Democrat John Metsopoulos, who garnered 1,195 votes.
District B? Fahgeddaboutit! And that’s exactly what the Republican Town Committee did, choosing not to challenge incumbents Faye Bowman and Travis Simms, who survived a primary challenge from Manny Langella.
The GOP also chose not to run anyone for Board of Education B, where Erik Anderson beat incumbent Dem Migdalia Rivas in a primary. Anderson, who is openly gay, was seen by the Republicans as a solid BoE candidate who need not be challenged in the heavily Democratic district. But party leaders did say that, had Rivas won the primary, Anderson would have been strongly considered to run on the Republican line if he were interested.
Republicans did not challenge Mike Barbis in the District E BoE contest, and inherited their District A candidate when the Democratic District A committee nominating process caused previously unaffiliated voter Joe Perella out of the field in onto the GOP ballot. That left fellow newcomer Dr. Yvel Crevecoeur to challenge for the Dem spot in the primary. He won, then won again Tuesday.
In District C, the buzz had incumbent BoE Chairman Mike Lyons a shoo-in against newcomer Lisa Nuzzo, a Democrat. After all, Lyons, elected chairman despite a 6-3 Dem majority the past two years, had been lauded by everyone from persistent online gadflies and newspaper letter writers to parents to Rilling, for his leadership.
But Nuzzo, an outgoing, energetic and friendly parent with strong PTO and youth sports leadership credentials, came so close that Lyons had to wait for absentee ballot results to be released before declaring victory. In the closest BoE race on the ballot, Lyons outpolled Nuzzo 1,483 to 1,417.
Was it Rilling’s coattails? The national “R” backlash (Lyons has not been shy about stating his stance on national issues)? Concerns from a largely silent constituency about how Lyons dealt with the Shirley Mosby racism claims?
In the District D BoE race, Republicans carried the day. Bryan Meek, who stepped up to fill out fellow Republican Jack Chiaramonte’s term when the latter resigned some eight months ago, handily beat Dem Haroldo Williams, making his second bid, 1,741 to 1,389. Williams, who is black and Hispanic, having been born and raised in Panama, ran as a big proponent of closing the achievement gap. He also ran on civility, restoring a calm and professional tone to the board.
Meek brought his strong background as a certified public account and conservative to libertarian viewpoint to the race, traits that played well in the district.
A closer look at the winners reveals another part of what has been described by some as a “sea change” in Norwalk’s governance – at least on the Council.
There are some new faces taking the place of some seemingly entrenched leaders. Nick Sacchinelli (D-At-Large-elect) is “pushing 32,” Mike DePalma (D-District D-elect) is 35, and Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman, 31, (D-District B), Eloisa Melendez, 21 (D-District A), and Shannon O’Toole Giandurco, 31 (R-District D) – who were re-elected – are part of what seems to be a youth movement.
New Board of Education member Erik Anderson (D-District B-elect) also is in his early 30s.
Norwalk government still has its share of graybeards – the mayor, after all, is 68, John Igneri (D-District E) is 71, Bruce Kimmel (D-At-Large) is 67, Doug Hempstead (R-At-Large) is 65, and Rich Bonenfant (R–At-Large) is 64 – but the new breed is gaining.
(Ages according to online sources)