Opinion: Experience shows Watts would be a mistake

Anna Duleep
Anna Duleep

Anna Duleep is the Norwalk City Sheriff, a former at-large Common Councilwoman and former Democratic candidate for state representative in the 142nd District.

I would discuss the relative merits of the two candidates’ platforms, but I have been unable to discern how exactly Councilman Watts intends to improve upon Rep. Perone’s 10-year track record of results. Indeed, I am still wondering why Councilman Watts chose to primary for the 137th district rather than run to be MY state rep, in the district where we both lived when he started his campaign (other than his oft-expressed displeasure at the inclusion of New Canaan through redistricting). I wonder why anybody would primary a popular incumbent without offering a substantive challenge on the issues, or even a clear exposition of his platform!

Mostly, I wonder why Norwalk would trade in a hardworking, effective, respected committee chair like Rep. Chris Perone for anybody, especially Councilman Watts.

Having worked with David Watts on the 2011-13 Common Council, I have serious concerns about the effect his temperament could have on our Democratic delegation’s ability to advocate successfully for Norwalk. His overbearing tactics directly impacted the decision of legislators on both sides of the aisle – including me – not to run for reelection in 2013. Rather than experience another needlessly frustrating term, I chose to trade the possibility of Council power for the freedom to advocate for public safety issues in other venues.

During my last full term on the Common Council, only three women served; I was the sole female in the Democratic Caucus. I witnessed strongly negative reactions to Councilman Watts from every member of the unofficial Women’s Caucus: one publicly denounced actions by Councilmen Watts and Peña (which they themselves called “political theater”); one grew physically sick during a meeting and consequently gave up her Council seat; and I chose not to run for anything at all. I later decided to help the Rilling ticket and more visibly address public safety issues by running for City Sheriff. While I cannot speak for the Councilwoman who stepped down, I can relate my dismay when Councilman Watts expressed glee that his “political theater” had “gotten one of their players off the field.”

I do not consider legislation a game; I consider it serious business that affects all of us. To the extent that government can be called a business, it is a business heavily reliant on relationships; one’s word is one’s bond. In Hartford, I witnessed the cordial and easy manner with which Rep. Perone relates to colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I saw how much they respect his integrity, even when they disagree on policy. I appreciated the many times Rep. Perone went out of his way to help this Norwalk Councilwoman navigate the halls of our Capitol to advocate for the people of Norwalk.

The vast gap in efficacy between Rep. Perone and Councilman Watts became evident in their responses to Norwalk’s gun violence. I ran for Common Council in 2011 in part to prevent other Norwalkers from suffering gun violence like my dog Scrappy, who was murdered in 2008. Our caucus elected me Majority Leader; Councilman Watts assumed oversight of our police and fire departments as Chair of the Council’s Health, Welfare, Public Safety & Emergency Management Committee.

I was pleased when Councilman Watts joined me on a trip to lobby Hartford for common-sense gun safety legislation. I chose to believe David was sincere when he promised to name legislation after my murdered dog upon his election to the Connecticut General Assembly one day. Imagine my dismay when Councilman Watts followed my impassioned speech with cursory remarks equivalent to, “Uh, what she said.” He told these legislators he was there essentially as moral support for me.

I had expected a fierce partner in advocacy, not a friend to hold my purse. I was amazed that a Yale-trained preacher would show up in Hartford ill-prepared even to fake passion for a subject as important as preventing gun violence!

In contrast, Commerce Committee Co-Chair Chris Perone offered his Capitol office as a resting spot during CAGV’s March for Change. He personally checked in with me and my newfound partners in advocacy from around the state. Through comments from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I learned just how much legislators from around the state respect and like Norwalk’s Chris Perone. They teased him about turning the atmosphere of the Commerce Committee offices from an “old-boys’ smoking club” to a welcoming atmosphere where colleagues – male and female – felt equally comfortable discussing solutions to important issues facing constituents across Connecticut. Rep. Perone followed through on his promises by voting for common-sense gun safety legislation.

When the worst anybody says about a politician is that he “may be too nice for politics,” his constituents should consider themselves fortunate. Rep. Perone’s even-keeled temperament and strategic restraint have propelled Norwalk to a particularly powerful position; as co-chair of the Commerce Committee, Rep. Perone oversees a large budget and entities such as the DECD. If Councilman Watts prevails on Tuesday, Norwalk will lose that chairmanship. Based on his dealings on the Council, I doubt that a future Rep. Watts would be able to build the necessary political alliances to assume an equally powerful position for Norwalk. Please vote for Chris Perone on Tuesday, August 12!


16 responses to “Opinion: Experience shows Watts would be a mistake”

  1. John Hamlin

    Chris Perone is the better choice for Norwalk. I wish he had more distance from the public employee unions, but his record demonstrates he’s a centrist, pragmatic, honorable politician.

  2. OhNoNorwalk

    Watts has a political agenda. He doesn’t really care about us on a personal tax payer level.
    He is about What can you do for me. Not what can I do for you. I experienced that.

  3. EastNorwalkChick

    Thank you Anna for a clear and concise opinion piece that echoes my own concerns. As a constituent of the 137th my vote tomorrow will be for Perone, Mr. Watts has given me no clear reason for me to vote for him.
    I too believe that Mr. Watts is in it for himself, not what’s best for us here in the 137th, not for the rest of Norwalk or the State. He seems to have aspirations for higher office, which is fine for any politician, but I feel he is doing it for all for the wrong reasons.
    This is not a game, his choices if he gets to Hartford will have real consequences for the citizens of this City and State.

  4. Joanne Romano

    Anna, very good piece. When politicians have agendas it always spells disaster for their constituents. I know most politicians have their pet projects but blatant agendas are a whole different animal. I find it disconcerting that all of what I have seen is about racial divide. Norwalk is a melting pot of many different races and cultures not of a chosen few. This is nothing more than a campaign of divide and conquer. To gain the victory; win; conquer: a plan to overcome by any means possible.

  5. EastNorwalkChick

    Joanne, I fear you are right about the divide and conquer theory, to get elected by any means possible. Not a admirable trait in any Politian….nor is it good for an entire district.
    This type of divisiveness is not what we need in Hartford, we need someone who will work for the whole district, not for a certain few.
    I have a sneaky suspicion that if this certain few are the ones who get him elected, once in office he will then ignore their needs too….He is in it for himself, they are just a means to his end.

  6. Bill

    The more I read and see of watts, the more I think this campaign was run just to get state funds and deliver those funds to watts’ friends who run political businesses. He has no shot at winning and he knows this, but spending state tax payer campaign money on friends businesses who will then return the favor as watts has his own political “consulting” business, makes the most sense.

  7. Tim D

    Turn down the wattage, David just got ROASTED!

  8. Chevy-Vega

    Anna Duleep’s letter sure sounds like NEGATIVE campaigning on behalf of Chris Perone. Thank you Councilman Watts for preferring to take the high road and sticking to it. I think you’ll represent Norwalk very well in Hartford.

  9. potaxpayer

    i’m wondering if anyone else has a problem driving on harbor ave with all the cars parked illegally, in a no parking area,cars parked in front of the old liquor store blocking the road on that dangerous curve, facing the wrong direction, more than 12″ from the curb. i can’t vote for someone who doesn’t even obey the simplest laws.

  10. Unfortunately, like Anna Duleep, I will not have the opportunity to vote for David Watts if he wins the nomination. But I have a very different view of the two candidates. While chairman of the Public Safety committee, Norwalk made real strides in fighting crime and police indifference. His leadership methods may have seemed odd at the time, but they did get results. Shouldn’t that count?

    On the other hand, although Rep. Perone is, as you say, a committee chairman in Hartford, what has that gotten us? Less than nothing, as far as I can tell.

  11. Casey Smith

    @Chevy-Vega –
    Thank you Councilman Watts for preferring to take the high road and sticking to it. I
    Really? So, unpaid taxes are not an issue with you? And dragging the treasurer into the fray is the high road?
    I don’t think so.

  12. Don’t Panic

    Councilman Watts has taken numerous opportunities since he formed his exploratory committee to campaign negatively against Rep. Perone. Among the charges leveled were interference with the drawing of district lines and tampering with the Democratic Party Caucuses to elect the members of the DTC. (neither true, btw).

  13. Joanne Romano

    @ Jeff Hall “While chairman of the Public Safety committee, Norwalk made real strides in fighting crime and police indifference. His leadership methods may have seemed odd at the time, but they did get results. Shouldn’t that count”?
    Really? He was chairman for a very short time and when he was no longer chair he never showed for meetings because as he told myself and anyone else who would listen that I stole the chairmanship from him!

  14. Joanne Romano

    This may all sound like sour grapes to many of you but when I left the city council, I left for a reason and it wasn’t because I lost the election to the 137th as some would have you believe. I left because of the actions of others and the total disrespect for fellow council people. Here is one excerpt from when I left the council, this from someone who doesn’t believe in dirty politics………
    “That hurt her in her recent campaign against incumbent state Rep. Chris Perone (D-District 137), as she sought the police union’s endorsement.

    “She paid the price,” Watts said. “It had to be demoralizing for her. It wasn’t even close. She was down about that. Warren and I were out there making sure she would lose. That’s politics.

  15. Pontiac Astre

    @chevy-vega Watts up watts? FYI: anyone who knows the Chevy Vega model knows that the car was widely known for a sweeping range of problems related to its engineering, reliability, safety, known for heavy rust, as well as engine durability and breakdown issues.

  16. peter parker

    Ms. Duleep should remove that rafter from her own eye before she attempts to remove the speck from others! Today the voters of the district will decide the outcome.

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