NORWALK, Conn. — There was no mistaking the joy from a certain camp of Rowayton Democrats as the voting results came in.
“The witch is dead!” Board of Education member Mike Barbis said Tuesday night, after most Democrats had left the election night party, about the resounding defeat suffered by Common Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E).
Democratic Town Committee member Nora King went on to describe the strategy used to take down McCarthy. A short while later, Democrats were marveling at a text McCarthy sent to Common Councilman John Igneri (D-District E).
“Congratulations,” McCarthy wrote to Igneri. “You’ve done nothing to deserve this, though. I hope you’ll change that.”
McCarthy declined comment Wednesday.
McCarthy and his Republican running mate, John Bazzano, easily won the vote from West Norwalk residents, but were overtaken by Igneri and his Democratic running mate, Thomas Livingston, when the results came in from Brookside and Rowayton.
“There was a concerted effort in a number of people in the Rowayton area to make sure that Dave didn’t get elected,” Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano said Wednesday. “He seemed to be the target and I am wondering if some of that had to do with someone not getting appointed to the Zoning Commission and Dave taking the blame for that.”
“We totally focused on Rowayton,” King, the someone in question, said Tuesday. “We called in every person we knew. Friends, everyone. We were calling people up until 7:30 at the polls, getting them out to vote. We just knew it was the only way to win.”
When King was voted down for reappointment to Zoning, she said she would work on a strategy to take down McCarthy.
“We knew we had to make it with the Rowayton vote,” King said.
“We beat him in Brookside,” Igneri said. “A combination of Brookside and Rowayton, he couldn’t make up for it in West Norwalk.”
Barbis was coy when asked who he meant by “the witch” in “The witch is dead!”
“I would like you to take a guess,” Barbis said. “There is someone who is a candidate who did all sorts of things, and played all sorts of games. All I can say is: It’s divine justice.”
Former Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak, a Golden Hill resident, said a lot of campaign signs had disappeared in West Norwalk. They would be replaced and then disappear again. One resident didn’t want campaign signs but they showed up on the property, he said.
McCarthy played politics with the “heated staircase” last January, Mushak said.
McCarthy initially said he would vote against the $270,000 Redevelopment Agency project for a new staircase at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive but was not present, due to a family concern, when the item came to a vote at the full Council meeting.
“I cannot fathom spending $250,000 to replace a perfectly good staircase with a perfectly good staircase that’s going to be heated,” he said, at the first committee meeting on the topic.
The money would fund much more than stairs, Redevelopment Agency Senior Project Manager Susan Sweitzer said at the time.
There are now two pedestrian crosswalks on Flax Hill Road that are equipped with impossible-to-overlook signs, with warning lights that flash when a button is pushed. NancyOnNorwalk has seen pedestrians using them, and cars stopping to allow them to pass.
Mushak said he has seen this, also. Mothers with toddlers in strollers can now cross the road safely, he said. McCarthy did not read the materials that accompanied the request for funds for the project before opposing it, he said.
“I think the biggest offense of that whole episode was that McCarthy did not first consult with the South Norwalk council members before trying to kill that much-needed project, revealing an arrogance that is unacceptable of any elected official,” Mushak said in a Wednesday email. “That is one reason he was not elected this time. You can only go around throwing folks under the bus for so long before they catch on and realize this is a game of dirty politics that is being played that does not have Norwalk’s best interest in mind, only the best interest of the person playing the game.”
Some Rowayton residents have condemned what McCarthy “did to” King, a 20-minute speech on the Council floor detailing his opinion on why she shouldn’t be reappointed to Zoning.
“He pointed out facts,” Torrano said.
“Having spoken to a couple of people on the Zoning Commission now, including Democrats, that there is a general feeling that they are happy with the Commission as it sits now,” Torrano said. “There have been a couple who have been on there in the past who have created problems for them.”
That was Mushak and former Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Santo, a Republican, he said.
“What they are finding out is they are able to get along a lot better and do things without the animosity and the sniping that had gone on before. So I think the Zoning Commission is the better for it,” Torrano said.
The final tally showed Livingston, the newcomer, with 1,697 votes and Igneri with 1,647. McCarthy got 1,536 and Bazzano, the only West Norwalker in the group, 1,418.
Livingston and Igneri were all smiles Tuesday night.
“I am so excited,” Igneri said. “We worked our butts off. We knocked on every door and Tom Livingston, my running mate, knocked on almost every door in West Norwalk. It paid off. It’s a triumph for civility and bipartisanship.”
Livingston said not every door, but a lot. He was door knocking every day for the last 45 days, he said.
Igneri said Bruce Kimmel and Kay Anderson also did a lot of door knocking. Livingston called it a team effort.
“I am overwhelmed,” Livingston said. “I am gratified, I thank all my supporters and neighbors and friends. I couldn’t do it without them. I look forward to serving with John and the rest of the Common Council. I think we can do great things for Norwalk.”
King said she and Barbis had done an Irish jig in his kitchen before making their way to the party.
“Thank God,” King said. “Norwalk won tonight. We won.”
Igneri said, “That’s right.”