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.
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.