Opinion: Voters should educate themselves before election day

Mark Chapman
Mark Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – You reap what you sow.

I don’t usually quote the Bible; technically, this is paraphrasing, and I am really quoting so many other people who have used this tough-love, “it’s your own damn fault” response to whining about the best laid plans going off the rails:

You reap what you sow.

Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to elected officials. OK, maybe elected officials are second to raising problem children, but aren’t the two things horribly similar?

Think about it: The nation picked Richard Nixon. Alaska picked Sara Palin. Rhode Island voters picked Patrick Kennedy. Florida voters picked Tea Party favorite Rick Scott, whose popularity has recently climbed to a negative 20, with a 34 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval rating according to a mashup-up of three polls as reported in the New York Times. Worse: Independent Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island has a 68 percent disapproval rating, and Illinois Democrat Pat Quinn is at 55 percent disapproval. The most recent Gallup poll (July 10) shows Congress at 80 percent disapproval. Obama? July 16 poll had him at 52 percent disapproval.

It’s easy to feel hopeless when it comes to affecting change at the top. What can one person in Norwalk do about Congress when they can’t even vote for or against John Boehner or Harry Reid?

But locally? A whole different story. One person can easily become a group, and that group becomes a movement, and suddenly the look and feel of the city’s government changes.

The thing is – and this is why NoN exists – the voters get to choose who will represent them. NoN’s mission is to let the voters – those who care to read our reports – know what their government is doing and how their elected and appointed representatives are conducting their business – and themselves. Voters reap what they sow. That’s why an informed electorate is so important.

The Board of Education was plagued with internal sniping prior to last November’s election. The racial makeup included seven whites and two minorities. In November, Norwalk voters chose to send two incumbents packing – Sue Haynie and Steve Colarossi – and instead chose Shirley Mosby and Sherelle Harris, adding two African-American voices and silencing a feuding pair of white Republicans.

Voters changed the tone of their leadership by choosing Harry Rilling for mayor and turning Warren Peña out of his at-large Council office. After two years of discord, the city opted – at large – for kinder and gentler candidates.

And now we head into another election, one in which the city’s legislative districts will choose who to send to Hartford. And while the general election is still four months away, we are less than a month from the Aug. 12 primary that could decide a couple of the big-prize winners.

In the 140th, Peña is challenging four-term incumbent Bruce Morris, who easily won the party backing in a May Democratic caucus. In the 137th, Democrats Chris Perone, the five-term incumbent, faces a stiff challenge from party-endorsed candidate David Watts, a two-term Common Council member who eked out a narrow caucus victory. The two men could not be more different, and voters will have a clear choice. In both cases, the primary winners are likely going to Hartford from the traditionally Democratic districts.

In the 143rd, Fred Wilms and party-backed Emily Wilson are competing for the Republican slot to run in November against Democrat Andy Garfunkel. Republican Larry Cafero has represented the district that includes parts of Norwalk and New Canaan for 22 years, but it is not considered a lock this year. Again, voter will have a clear choice in the primary.

The key, of course, is for the voters to educate themselves, to look beyond the R and D, beyond the familiar face, beyond the best haircut, the sharpest suit, the nicest smile. There are two things that matter most: Who best represents the voters on the issues, and who best represents who we are as Norwalkers.


Secretary of State: Registrar’s actions must be non-partisan

There’s another primary race in Norwalk, that for Republican registrar of voters. So far, things have been unpleasant, as long-time incumbent Karen Doyle Lyons is being challenge not just by John Federici, but by the Republican Town Committee itself.

RTC Chairman Peter Torrano has made a case for change, saying the GOP registrar needs to be more responsive to party needs. Lyons has maintained that what she is being asked to do is not legal, a position backed up by Democratic Deputy Registrar Bob Sodaro.

We sent Secretary of State Denise Merrill one of our letters to the editor detailing what activities are expected by the Norwalk Republican Town Committee of the Republican registrar of voters. Her response:

“My initial response is that these activities would be within the jurisdiction and requirements of the office if non-partisan in nature. Registrars are selected by their respective parties, but are expected to register voters in a non-partisan manner.” (boldface emphasis was added by NoN)

Merrill’s statement means that any activities conducted in City Hall by either party’s registrar of voters must be strictly non-partisan. While the registrar can apply knowledge gained through her or his office to participate in partisan activities outside of City Hall – and I would assume only official records that come under the Freedom of Information Act could be copied or otherwise removed from the office – there can be no partisan connection. That would include correspondence of any kind identifying the person as the registrar or suggesting any info collected would be used to update official records.

Again, a clear choice for the Republican voters (long-term incumbent or a change candidate).

The check’s (almost) in the mail

Chris Perone (D-137) and Warren Peña (D-140) both received this email at the end of the week from state elections officer Paige Adams:


You have met both thresholds – audit will recommend APPROVAL at the Commission meeting Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

I will email you after the meeting to confirm the Commission vote.

The approval is for primary election funding through the Citizen’s Election Program. Perone, who only filed for the grant Wednesday, and Peña are the last two Norwalk primary candidates to qualify for grants. Each will receive $27,850.


5 responses to “Opinion: Voters should educate themselves before election day”

  1. Mr. Ludlow

    Might I suggest that local elections cannot be easily handicapped and readily autopsied.

    On the Republican side, the two primaries are between former insiders who were dumped and newer insiders aligned with the new leadership. Who can predict if the Registrar’s race and the Wilson-Wilms fight will be a referendum on Pete Torrano’s leadership, a testament to who works harder or a popularity contest? If local GOP voters stay home, election results might tell us nothing beyond who won that particular race on Primary Day.

    If Haynie’s and Colarosi’s combativeness did them in, how can you explain Shirley Mosby’s election? Obviously, Haynie and Rosato suffered by weak support among the Republican voters and Colarosi paid the price for forming a third party.

    As you try to simplify election results, you do a disservice. You perpetuate the stereotype that to get elected, you don’t make waves. But the debacle with NEON and now SoNoCC tells us that a group that never questions its leaders fails miserably.

  2. piberman

    Once upon in Norwalk many years ago the local press went to some lengths to print the actual platforms of individual candidates and encouraged OpEds by candidates while remaining studiously neutral as regards outcomes. Nowadays it takes some detective work to identify candidate platforms and OpEd letters by candidates seem a lost art. And a newcomer press makes its election preferences known. What has been lost is the broad respect our City officials held in years gone past from voters of all spectrums. Respect because it was earned the old fashioned way – hard work serving the public. Times are a changing. Few “old timers” would agree that our local governance has improved over the years.

  3. EnriqueSantiago

    I am happy to see that the Secretary of State has put to bed the accusations of our current Registrar of Voters. I can’t imagine that our members of the Republican Party have asked her to do illegal things, and that really can be the case. I would like to see the proof that she was told to do something illegal. I have been following the stories in Nancy. She has somebody writing for her from her office who is not even a Republican, so what he has to do with the choice the Republicans made is none of his concern. I am a member of the Republican Town Committee, and I support John Federici because he is honest and straight forward and will do what we need for him to do to help the voters.

  4. Oyster

    Wouldn’t the party have to avoid using resources to benefit one candidate until after the primary?

  5. Just saying

    Rumors , unfounded statements, and lots of untruths but who would believe them with out Facts? Have the the two candidates Debate the issues, facts and experience.

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