Updated 1:33 p.m.: More information, clarification.
NORWALK, Conn. – Four of five Norwalk municipal voting districts elected Democratic Town Committee members Monday uneventfully. But in District E, a tsunami of ballots prompted a painstakingly methodical count Tuesday; eventually eight “insurgents” were declared victors in the battle for 11 seats.
It may not be over yet – the “insider” crowd has the right to force a primary.
A total 411 people voted in District E, according to Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells, who called that “way more than in any previous year.” It’s also unheard-of to have 22 candidates on the ballot.
The 11 members of the Independents for Norwalk-inspired alternative slate, viewed as “insurgents” by some, had the benefit of surprise given that the 11 DTC-developed candidates weren’t aware of any challenge before the weekend. Yet the vote counts weren’t that far apart.
Jody Sattler, who unsuccessfully ran for the Board of Education last fall on the Independents line (after reportedly meeting with DTC leaders and not following up on their invitation to continue the process), was the top vote getter, with a total 225.
This was 25 votes more than Mary Ellen Flaherty Ludwig, who won a recent battle with Sattler to take the BoE seat formerly held by the late Mike Barbis. Flaherty Ludwig came in 14th in this contest.
Again, 11 seats are up for grabs. Democratic Town Committee members endorse candidates for election and appoint replacement members to the Common Council and Board of Education. They also meet monthly to discuss issues and hear from top elected Democratic officials, including the Mayor, State legislators and others.
The District E victors were:
- Jody Sattler 225 votes (Alternative slate)
- Aimee Ableman 215 votes (Alternative slate)
- Alyson Smith 210 votes (Alternative slate)
- Sarah Wayland 210 votes (Alternative slate)
- Annie Allen 209 votes (Alternative slate)
- Sara Ingrassia 207 votes (Alternative slate)
- Camille Legnani 206 votes (Alternative slate)
- Todd DeKlyn 205 votes (Alternative slate)
- Ed Camacho 204 votes (DTC slate)
- Benita Raleigh 204 votes (DTC slate)
- Stuart Wells 203 votes (DTC slate)
Falling short were:
- Michele Andrea 201 votes (Alternative slate)
- Peter Stuart 201 votes (Alternative slate)
- Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig 200 votes (DTC slate)
- Charles Bryan Cavines 198 votes (Alternative slate)
- Colin Anthony Hostin 196 votes (DTC slate)
- Kevin M. Tepas 196 votes (DTC slate)
- Debra Harring D’Arinzo 196 votes (DTC slate)
- Tina L. Duryea 195 votes (DTC slate)
- Priscilla Feral 194 votes (DTC slate)
- Lucia C. Rilling 192 votes (DTC slate)
- Esther Murillo 188 votes (DTC slate)
The volume of votes forced the Registrar’s Office to delay counting them. Fox Run Elementary School, the polling location, closed at 10 p.m. and “there was not enough time to count the over 400 ballots cast,” DTC Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez wrote late Monday. “The ballots were secured and escorted to City Hall, and representatives from the two competing slates have identified four individuals each (for a total of eight) to conduct the count.”
Deputy Democratic Registrar Ron Banks led Tuesday’s count, given that Wells was on the ballot. It went on for more than four hours Tuesday in the Community Room and was broadcast via Zoom. A source on scene reported that there were 412 ballots, and Town Clerk Rick McQuaid quipped that “one off” was good. Seven ballots that didn’t have votes for a total 11 candidates were declared invalid. A discrepancy prompted a second count. No one counting votes had run for the seats.
When it was over, some celebrated.
“Pleased to see new people, new blood and new ideas on the DTC,” wrote Independents for Norwalk founder Lisa Brinton. “Hopefully, going forward other districts in Norwalk will be inspired to challenge the status quo —-regardless of party affiliation. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely… even inside small local town parties.”
Brinton later suggested she’d heard there might be a primary.
State Statute specifies that a primary can be forced if the number of primary hopefuls equals “at least 25%” of the seats available. As there are 11 seats per district, that would mean three people would have to get the necessary number of signatures on a petition to try again through a primary.
Efforts to connect with Melendez were not successful Tuesday. Multiple inquiries to get information from others about a potential primary didn’t result in specifics; State Statute states that a town committee primary would be held on the first Tuesday in March in even-numbered years.
Meaning, March 1.
Petitions must be filed 34 days ahead of March 1 and the total signatures must equal 5% of the registered Democrats in District E, according to State Statute.
Wells explained Wednesday:
“Successful candidates at the five party caucuses become the ‘endorsed’ candidates for the Democratic Town Committee. They ‘win the seats’ 1) if no one petitions to challenge them in a primary, or 2) if there are petitioning candidates but they don’t get enough signatures on the petitions to force a primary, or 3) if there is a primary and they are among the top 11 vote-getters. This is true in all 5 districts, whether or not the caucus was contested; and a petitioning candidate may be any registered Democrat in the district in question, and is not limited to someone who ran at the caucus and was unsuccessful.”
Sattler is said to have organized the alternative slate, which appears to be comprised of Rowayton residents, who are all white. Sattler has not replied to emails asking about the situation.
The DTC slate included candidates from other parts of District E and was racially diverse. Raleigh, a West Norwalk resident, and Hosten, a Village Creek resident, are Black. Camacho, Murillo and Rilling are Hispanic.
The Rowayton slate registered Sunday evening, one source said. DTC members were given a heads up by friends a day or two earlier.
“I was not specifically aware until shortly before the caucus that a group from Rowayton was organizing a get out the vote effort to elect almost exclusively Rowayton candidates to represent all of District E, which includes West Norwalk, Brookside, Village Creek and Harbor View, on the Democratic Town Committee,” Camacho wrote Tuesday afternoon. “Politics is messy and at times bareknuckled, but it is my hope and expectation that once the electoral process has been exhausted, including primary challenges, if any, we will come together as a Party and continue to move the City forward as we have.”
While some charge that some alternative slate members only became Democrats recently, former DTC member Nora King said that wasn’t true.
King, a Rowayton resident, wrote:
“I was one of the original DTC members who fought to extend the DTC Districts from 7 to 11. I actually recommended 15. It is a good thing to include more voices. I have known the majority of the new slate of candidates for years who put their names forward and then won after the ballot counting today. Jody Sattler, Aimee Ableman , Dr. Alyson Smith, Sarah Wayland, Annie Allen, Sara Ingrassia, Camille Legnani and Todd DeKlyn won 8 out of the 11 slots. All of these people I have known for years. All Democrats. They supported me on various runs for office, Mike Barbis, John Igneri and other candidates. They are all active in the community and have improved the lives of others and have done many things to improve the quality of life for Norwalkers. They are kind, smart and genuinely good people.”
Camacho was DTC chairman when the DTC expanded.
King said the alternative slate members “ran for office because their voices were not being heard by the exclusive DTC establishment in Norwalk.”
Wells provided party affiliation info Wednesday:
- Aimee Ableman: Registered in 2014, always a Dem
- Anne Allen: Registered in 2016, originally Unaffiliated, changed to Dem on Dec. 2, 2021
- Michelle Andrea: Registered in 2016, originally a Republican; became Unaffiliated Dec., 2020; became a Dem on Dec. 13, 2021
- Charles Caviness: Registered in 2012; changed from Unaffiliated to Dem, Dec. 8, 2021
- Todd DeKlyn: Registered 2013, always a Dem
- Sara Ingrassia: Registered 2007, always a Dem
- Camille Legnani: Registered April, 2021, effective on 18th birthday October 2021, always a Dem
- Jody Sattler: Registered 2002, as Unaffiliated and became a Dem June 2019
- Alyson Smith: Registered 2012, always a Dem
- Peter Stuart: Registered 2000 as Unaffiliated, switched to Republican 2018, back to Unaffiliated in June 2020, and became a Dem Jan. 5, 2022
- Sarah Wayland: Registered 2009 as Unaffiliated and changed to Dem on Dec. 3, 2021
- Priscilla Feral: Registered 1978, always a Dem
- Benita Watford (Raleigh): Registered 1988, always a Dem
Regarding the alternative slate, Wells explained, “Six are recent additions to the party (four of them only became Dems in early December 2021, and one did so in Jan 2022, and Jody Sattler switched in 2019.) The four others were long-time Dems, and, of course Camille Legnani just became 18 this last year, so she is too new to fit in either category.”
Other districts elected DTC members in the usual, less eventful, way. The DTC released these results:
- Nicol Demae Ayers (incumbent)
- Jordon M Hensley
- David B. Heuvelman (incumbent)
- Laoise King (incumbent)
- Rosa M Murray (incumbent)
- Charles A Nystrom (incumbent)
- Elsa Peterson Obuchowski (incumbent)
- Fanny E. Osorio (incumbent)
- Kadeem Roberts (incumbent)
- Jalin Tyrell Sead (incumbent)
- Darius Williams (incumbent)
- Ronald Phillip Banks (incumbent)
- Joshua Goldstein
- Sherelle Harris (incumbent)
- Jacquen D Jordan-Byron (incumbent)
- Bruce V. Morris
- Sonia E. Oliver (incumbent)
- Jody Kim Proct (incumbent)
- Diana Révolus (incumbent)
- Travis Simms (incumbent)
- Sandra Y Stokes (incumbent)
- Martha A Wooten-Dumas (incumbent)
- Jennifer Balliett (incumbent)
- Diana Carpio
- William Tyler Fairbairn
- Naomi Kydes (incumbent)
- Jennifer McAllister (incumbent)
- Pamela M Parkington (incumbent)
- Brenda Penn-Williams (incumbent)
- Samuel Pride
- Beth M. Siegelbaum (incumbent)
- Stephanie Thomas (incumbent)
- Johnnie Mae Weldon (incumbent)
- Heidi Alterman
- Sheri McCready-Brown
- Gregory D Burnett, Sr (incumbent)
- Elizabeth Golden (incumbent)
- Dominique E. Johnson (incumbent)
- Diane M Keefe (incumbent)
- Diane L. Lauricella
- Pat Marshock (incumbent)
- Lynne Moore (incumbent)
- Victoria Oatis
- Julie A. Sharp
The Republican Town Committee also held a caucus Monday to elect new members. Acting RTC Chairman Fred Wilms said he would send a list of the new members “when it’s complete.”