NancyOnNorwalk editor Mark Chapman is a 37-year journalist who has worked for newspapers from weeklies to metros, from Cape Cod to the Carolinas, Florida and Boston.
NORWALK, Conn. – Last fall, David Watts was working in support of Vinny Mangiacopra in the latter’s primary bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor at the same time he was running for re-election to the Common Council. Watts would complain, on and off, about negative campaigning.
When an unnamed candidate took aim at Mangiacopra for using Cranbury Elementary children on a flyer – Mangiacopra’s wife is a teacher there – he complained lustily about “The dirty campaigning, anonymous bloggers, just a bunch of behind the scenes dirty techniques and standing with people who are known for dirty campaigns,” he said. “Norwalk rejected dirty campaigns last year when they sent out negative mailers on the state senate.
“People don’t like dirty campaigns, they don’t like negative campaigning, they want people to talk about the issues,” he continued. “Instead of talking about or debating what was on the flier, by saying ‘I disagree with this issue,’ and put forward their education plan, they want to attack the kids, the parents, the mailer. I think people don’t want to hear from them. They don’t want to hear this, they want to hear about what their plan is for the future.”
When Watts decided to reveal, off the record, that he would be running against Chris Perone for state rep in the 137th District this year, he talked about the expected dirty campaigning, pointing to the people working on Perone’s campaign.
He also frequently complained about people posting mean comments on NancyOnNorwalk. Sometimes he was right. People attacked his parenting, his weight, his attire. Those things are, we feel, off limits.
And people attacked the fact that he is consistently well behind on his property taxes, has no regular job and was moving into the 137th just to run against Perone. Not off limits, we believe.
Watts told us he would not engage in negative campaigning. The people don’t want it, he said.
So when the above Tweet went out accusing the Perone campaign of dirty campaigning, it was a bit of a surprise. But only a bit, as there had been what appeared to be an orchestrated campaign attacking the Perone campaign’s integrity regarding its campaign filings earlier in the week.
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Then came the flyer that complains about the Perone campaign flyer raising questions about Watts’ unpaid property taxes.
The tax question is an issue. It has been raised time and again in the comments on this site by several people, on other sites and in conversations all over town.
But Watts chose to make raising the issue an example of negative campaigning. The above flyer was accompanied, on his Facebook page, with the words: “Meet the group of people responsible for the nasty flyers! Reject their politics and vote for the endorsed democratic candidate. I believe in issues not digging into peoples personal life. Say No to the Perone-Geake ticket!”
Mary and Mike Geake are working as treasurer and assistant treasurer on the Perone campaign. Neither is running for office. The line was reminiscent of Councilman David McCarthy’s (R-District E) letter to the editor of another outlet referring derisively to the Rilling-Knopp ticket.
Kevin Coughlin of DNA Campaigns in New Haven, who is overseeing the campaign of Perone and Bruce Morris – and who ran Mayor Harry Rilling’s campaign – responded with Tweets. He also sent us these responses:
“The residents of Norwalk deserve to know who will be representing them in Hartford. Public servants are held to a higher standard and expected to play by the same rules that everyone else does. Like all of the messaging from my campaign this piece is accurate, informative, and fair. For 10 years the people of Norwalk have trusted me to serve as State Representative. My colleagues in Hartford have trusted my knowledge, expertise, and work ethic to put me in charge of the Commerce Committee and the hundreds of millions of dollars that it manages.”
“David Watts feigns outrage but the truth of the matter is that he has been unable to pay his taxes year after year. These facts bring up many questions about the candidacy of David Watts. How can he manage the finances of the state’s $19 billion budget if he can’t manage his own personal finances? Why is he spending money renting a garage in the 137th district where he is claiming to ‘live’ if he still owes over $5,200 in taxes on his house in the 142nd district? These are serious concerns and voters have a right to know.”
Coughlin, it should be noted, held to a strict “no negativity” rule in the Rilling campaign. The mayor told us later that, on a few occasions, he had wanted to respond to Richard Moccia’s barbs, but followed Coughlin’s urging to let it roll off.
Speaking of campaign filings…
The Connecticut Citizen Election Audit is looking for people to participate in the independent observation of audits following Tuesday’s primary election. Connecticut voters who want to take part should sign up now to volunteer one day between Aug. 27 and Sept. 12.
Voters are offered written, video, and conference-call training. Volunteers sign up online, indicating the days within the period they can be available and the distance they are willing to travel. After towns are scheduled for audits, volunteers are assigned to observe one day in a town in their area of the state.
Further information, an introductory video, and online signup are available here.
After the completion of local counting, the Citizen Audit combines the official results with citizen observations and makes an independent report to the public, election officials, and the General Assembly.