Opinion: Norwalk’s pols are fighting like cats and dogs

Republicans and Democrats were fighting in 1881, too. (Illustration courtesy of the Boston Public Library.)
Republicans and Democrats were fighting in 1881, too. (Illustration courtesy of the Boston Public Library.)


NORWALK, Conn. — They’re fighting like cats and dogs in Norwalk political circles.

In fact, when you think about it, the Democrats and Republicans have a lot in common with cats and dogs, and not just in Norwalk.

Republicans are like dogs. Dogs are pack animals, loyal to their masters and mistresses and territorially protective to a fault. They are easy to train to sit, heel, roll over, shake hands and attack.

Democrats are like cats. You can’t herd cats. Cats have their own minds. They can be purring one moment, hissing and scratching the next. They can be wonderfully warm and social, aggressively independent or totally indifferent.

And so it is that Republicans march in step to the leader of the pack. In Washington, D.C., that means a Senate falling in behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In the House, lead dog and Speaker John Boehner is losing his grip to the Tea Party dogs, who have chosen Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as their new alpha males.

The Democrats? They are doing the cat thing.

And here in Norwalk, things are no different. While Republicans fall in behind their leader, Mayor Richard Moccia, the Democrat cat fights go one and on — the Brawl at City Hall, mayoral candidates vowing to trash the party leadership, mayoral candidates wavering on supporting or urging their backers to support the elected candidate, unsuccessful candidates’ backers trashing the winner – anonymously – online. Hissy fits galore.

Hey, there is even the one stray who runs with the dogs, acts like a dog, and claims to be a cat – all while lining up to fight alongside the dogs.

And some wonder why, in this bluest of states, Norwalk is most often glowing red.

More from the animal kingdom

While Norwalk’s Republican machine gears up for the stretch run to November, some Democrats seem hell-bent on eating their own.

The unity talk of last winter and spring has given way to the taste of sour grapes for some of the candidates and, especially, some of their supporters. Online commenters have been particularly toxic since their favorites were roundly rejected by Norwalk’s Democratic voters – those who took the time and made the effort to vote. Some of those who lined up behind Vinny Mangiacopra, Matt Miklave and Andy Garfunkel to rally for what they said was long-overdue change in the mayor’s office seem to now believe that change was only needed if “their guy” won.

Was the turnout really a surprise?

Several people are wringing their hands over the low primary turnout, but it wasn’t wholly unexpected. Moccia told NancyOnNorwalk days before the vote that, based on past experience, he expected 3,000 to 3,500 voters to turn out, and he was on the money.

Remember, despite the “historic” nature of the Democratic mayoral primary, it was a one-race election. Primaries anywhere usually have low turnouts. Only registered Democrats could vote, and, given Rilling’s margin of victory – he claimed over 51 percent of the vote, more than all his competition combined – many of Norwalk’s Dems may well have shrugged and felt the former police chief was a lock, so why bother. Combine those folks with the apathetic voters, the partisans who will vote for a Democrat no matter who, and those who believe Moccia is unbeatable and picking a challenger is an exercise in futility.

Low-tar candidate

Rilling did not run against the Democratic establishment, as did Miklave, nor did he run as its champion, like Vinny Mangiacopra. In fact, he didn’t have a lot to say about the Democratic Town Committee at all. Some saw Rilling as a Harry-Come-Lately to the party, while he claimed, and records showed, that he was a Dem before giving up affiliation while rising through the police ranks to avoid accusations of partisanship.

Rilling, in fact, managed to avoid those who would tar him with the antics of the DTC leadership, including the Brawl at City Hall, after which he invoked his years of police training by saying you can’t assess blame or suggest punishment until all the facts are known. He did not call for resignations of the leadership, nor did he receive their support.

It will be interesting to see if, should Rilling be elected mayor, there is a quiet change at the top of the party, made over in the image of the candidate who claims civility as his brand.

Dollars per vote

Mangiacopra raised more money in his run for the Democratic mayoral nomination than anyone else, yet managed just 781 votes. With nearly $70,000 raised, that’s close to $90 per vote. For comparison, when Greenwich resident Linda McMahon ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, she spent more per vote than any other candidate in the country, according to The Washington Post.  McMahon spend $95 per vote in her losing effort.

Rilling reported almost $59,000 raised and got 1,703 votes, about $35 a vote. The majority of Rilling’s money came from Norwalk donors, Mangiacopra’s from out of town.



27 responses to “Opinion: Norwalk’s pols are fighting like cats and dogs”

  1. LWitherspoon

    Rilling said “you can’t assess blame or suggest punishment until all the facts are known.”
    That position may have made sense immediately after the incident occurred. But since then it has become clear from each side’s own version of events that neither party was in the right.
    It’s going to be hard for Rilling to run a campaign as a former cop calling for the restoration of civility when he is silent on the brawl at City Hall. Are we to conclude that as Mayor, Rilling will support civility in principle but he will give a pass to DTC leaders who brawl at City Hall?

  2. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Many years ago we used to have an affectionate cat who was gutsy and unconflicted when it came to dealing with intruding dogs. Born and bred right here in Norwalk, this feline used to chase unsuspecting and thoroughly startled canines off the property quite regularly. “Cracker”, as the children named our well-loved cat, is still much missed.

    But we think we have a new and bigger cat ready for the dogs right here in town.

  3. Norwalk Spectator

    “Hey, there is even the one stray who runs with the dogs, acts like a dog, and claims to be a cat – all while lining up to fight alongside the dogs.
    And some wonder why, in this bluest of states, Norwalk is most often glowing red.”
    Just two quick points. Allegories often fall short. The comments about the “stray who runs with the dogs, acts like a dog…etc.” actually may be an independent thinker. Interesting that the “dogs” allow this “stray” to fight alongside of their “pack”.
    And regarding this”bluest of states”, maybe not. Here’s a link to the New York Times showing the 2010 race for Governor.


    Interesting that Litchfield County was solidly red,and Fairfield was light blue along with Tolland and Windham counties. We may not be as navy blue as some would like to think.

    (Editor’s note: Ah, caught me! Vermont is bluest, New York is second. Connecticut, according to a perusal of the indicated site, was only the third bluest — about 80 percent, regardless of shade. I am a Mass. native. People nationwide think Massachusetts is all Democrats and extremely liberal. According to the maps, Connecticut was bluer than Mass. In 2010 for the mid-terms…)

  4. Daisy

    Nancy, you are so obviously biased. Didn’t they teach you in journalism school that you’re supposed to be impartial, unless you want to write an op-ed column?

    (Editor’s note: Nancy did not write it, I did, as the byline clearly shows. In 35 years as a journalist, I learned that a piece clearly labelled as Opinion twice — once in the area of the byline, again very obviously in the headline — is, indeed an OPINION. – Mark Chapman)

  5. Don’t Panic

    This IS an op-ed. It is clearly labeled opinion. And the author is noted journalist Mark chapman according to the byline.

  6. Oldtimer

    Interesting allegory. Knowing Harry Rilling, it won’t take long to get all the Democrats pulling in the same direction. He is more likely to choose the “we are all in the same boat” allegory. If we don’t all pull (row) in the same direction, we won’t get anywhere. A lot of us are confident he can get that message across. We will soon see. Anybody who believes you can’t herd cats has never seen the amazing circus acts where big cats work beautifully together.

  7. EastNorwalkChick

    “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
    -Will Rogers-
    Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line….Harry needs to get the Dems to fall in love with him.

  8. Tim T

    The Dems will not fall in line behind Rilling as he is not a true Dem.. He is Moocia. At least Moccia admits what he is unlike HARRY.. This is the first time I will ever be voting for a republican as anyone is better than Rilling. all one need to do is look at what a disaster he was as police consultant.

  9. Oldtimer

    You do know the figures don’t back up your theory that Rilling did not do a good job ? Could it have been better with more resources ? Absolutely, but he has every right to be proud. We were never allowed to hear the conversations where he was told what he could ask for and what he couldn’t.

  10. Norwalk Spectator

    Mark –

    No problemo regarding how blue our state is. It just so happened that I had a conversation with someone on Friday night and we were looking at that New York Times Map and one of the U.S. showing the political alignment of every county in the U.S. of A during the most recent elections. It was quite enlightening, to say the least.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Norwalk Spectator

      Do you have a link to the 2012 election map? I like to geek out over that stuff myself when time permits. If you don’t have it, I’ll go hunting for myself when I have some time.


  11. ScopeonNorwalk

    No one is falling in line behind Rilling. He might end up in the mayor’s seat off the fact that the Underticket will go out in full force for themselves and for once the Dems may agree not to bash each other. But no one who didn’t support Rilling in the primary is going out to their supporters to tell them to support Rilling.

  12. Bruce Kimmel

    For the record: I am terribly allergic to cats, which trigger severe bronchial asthma whenever I am around them for too long. I get allergy shots once a month, so the situation has improved. But, nonetheless, you hit it right on the nose: Cats are more individualistic, have their own agenda and can be very nasty. Dogs are much more prone to work together and admit the occasional stray cat into the pack.

  13. EastNorwalkChick

    @ScopeonNorwalk – I think this year is going to be “anyone but Moccia”, much to Tim’s dismay….

  14. Tim T

    Old timer
    The NPD was out of control under Rilling One scandal after the next. I posted a few of these on this article.
    When you have one bad employee its just that one bad employee. When you have one after another after another after another. Its poor management . At least that’s the way it works in the real world as in the private sector. Of course Rilling has never worked in the real world.

  15. Tim T

    Also Old Timer the true crime figures do back up that Rilling did not do a good job as in the blood and killings in the streets. All we heard was one excuse after the next for the failure of his NPD. And the close to ZERO violent crimes solved by the NPD. Please do not quote FBI crime reports as we all know they are useless as they are what the local department reports to what category . The FBI themselves has stated this as they do not audit the numbers. I and most in Norwalk would not truth anything the NPD reports…

  16. Tim T

    Afraid that’s not what I am hearing. Actually I am hearing just the opposite as on anyone but Rilling. I think this was proven in the low low low low turn out at the primaries.

  17. Mr. Ludlow

    If signs around town are any indication, it looks like the cats and dogs are facing a challenge on the Board of Education.
    Unless you’re the most partisan of partisans (a noble pursuit during WWII, mind you, but not such an admirable trait nowadays), you have to love the prospect for November– no party could have a clear BOE majority.

  18. Joe Espo

    One thing about cats: they don’t mind pooping near where they eat, as long as there’s a sandbox nearby. Hmmmm?
    Another is that those felines just love to brawl:
    Republicans just want to get along, but those darn demo-cats just make it impossible:

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Joe Espo

      Ah, true. But dogs just poop on your lawn and walk away like it’s their birthright. 🙂

  19. M. Murray’s

    I always thought the difference between cats and dogs were that dogs were willing to work for their food and were grateful and appreciative of those who fed them while cats just like to hang around and cry when they’re hungry and want people to just give them food and ten no appreciation to those who feed them

  20. Norwalk Spectator

    I believe the map we were looking at on Friday night can be found here.
    The important thing about this particular map is that if you click on any particular state, a state map with the counties comes up. Often there are many counties that were carried by the Republicans, but the major cities went Democratic. Therefore, the entire state is presented as Democratic, which is not exactly an accurate picture. This is why northern Colorado, parts of northern California, the Michigan north peninsula and five counties in Maryland are talking about secession from their respective states. Those counties simply do not feel their views are being represented.

    I’m not trying to start an argument here, but simply explaining what the Friday night discussion was about.

  21. Norwalk Spectator

    Whoops! My post above should have been addressed to Mark Chapman. I truly wish there was some type of editing function on this board.

  22. Daisy

    When I wrote “Nancy” I meant the entire blog. And I just personally think op-eds should be elsewhere and not tossed in with the other “news.”

  23. Norwalk Lifer

    For the record: I am terribly allergic to cats, which trigger severe bronchial asthma whenever I am around them for too long. I get allergy shots once a month, so the situation has improved. But, nonetheless, you hit it right on the nose: Cats are more individualistic, have their own agenda and can be very nasty. Dogs are much more prone to work together and admit the occasional stray cat into the pack.

    To create another analogy, Norwalk’s own “Zell Miller” offers his opinion, of course, challenging the Democrats to a duel wouldn’t be fitting would it?

    What nonsense! cats and dogs? are you suggesting that the Republican party is more cohesive than the Democratic party? I would argue that if you take this into a macro view, you’ll find that the Republican party is splintered; the moderates, those sensible voices have no place, the dear Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Dunn, both close to this mayor have certainly offended many who are not so identifiable by a D or an R.

    There are tea party types who would completely destroy our way of government as they see this as the next “War of Independence” enactment.

    You have a certifiable loon from Texas, who is riding on the coattails of the tea party, and his latest “plan B” is to shut down the US military, I think people who are so overly ambitious should be ridden out of town on rail.

    Be polite, behave yourselves, if you choose public office, you have an obligation to at least appear intelligent by not opening your mouth.

    As the African saying goes, “The empty gourd makes the loudest noise”

    Norwalk Lifer

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