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Surprise District E Dems win 8 of 11 DTC seats, but may face primary

Norwalk Deputy Democratic Registrar Ron Banks leads Tuesday ballot counting in City Hall, as shown in the Zoom broadcast.

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:

Alternative slate

  • 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

 

DTC non-incumbents

  • 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:

District A

  • 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)

 

District B

  • 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)

District C

  • 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)

 

District D

  • 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.”

21 comments

Sue Haynie January 12, 2022 at 6:24 am

Not my district but this new blood is great to see. Love that Democrats who think Independently ran for these seats! And kudos to Lisa Brinton and her efforts to draw attention to this need.

Norwalk has become an old boys/old girls club of solid Democratic leadership grown stale and repetitive in their echo chamber.

Stuart Wells January 12, 2022 at 6:42 am

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.
Stuart Wells, Registrar of Voters

M Murray January 12, 2022 at 7:31 am

[email protected]
I’m an elected member of my Democratic
Town Committee, we campaign, fundraise
and support Democratic candidates. On
Monday, a group of non-Democrats is
attempting to overtake my District. I hope
every democrat I know is paying attention
locally, state wide and notionally.

Can she cite which years Harry Rilling switched parties to Republican? Back to Democrat? Who was Mayor at the time he switched? And why?

John O'Neill January 12, 2022 at 8:18 am

Good for those who’ve decided to challenge the status quo in District E. Isn’t it interesting that those in the establishment who consider themselves enlightened are really in it for the power at the end of the day. History is filled with enlightened people looking to grab onto power and doing their best to squash any dissent. In my opinion a great example is Russian Revolution of 1917.

Mimi Chang January 12, 2022 at 9:45 am

“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.”

Because nobody knows about “messy and at times bareknuckled” politics like Edwin Camacho does. His gasp worthy, brutal character assasination of a female mayoral candidate is on full display in this public letter below:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thehour.com/opinion/amp/Letter-Why-I-m-proud-to-be-a-Democrat-14515502.php

Mr. Camacho’s comments are telling, and fall in line with Priscilla Feral’s and Tina Duryea’s comments in that they make the alternative slate sound like they are up to no good, like they’d staged some kind of coup, when all they did was exercise their rights and partake in the Democratic process.

Kudos to the winners for proactively stepping up and getting involved. I’m hopeful that they’ve inspired more Democrats in the other districts to do the same in the future, and I look forward to following them and watching them represent ALL of us.

Christopher Sci January 12, 2022 at 11:24 am

Oh my goodness…..insurgents? How could we possibly elect insurgents? Are they part of the insurgency that occurred on Jan 6? Should we have Merrick Garland investigate? Sounds like we need to change the voting rules and call it “voting rights” so that this kind of threat to our democracy never happens again. Perhaps these “sly” insurgents, to quote Nancy, have also asked questions at school board meetings and should be classified and investigated as domestic terrorists? After all as Uncle Joe Biden said yesterday in Atlanta; you’re either with Biden and the Dems, or you’re with Jefferson Davis. I hope none of these “insurgents” is anti vax. That would create a whole new set of threats to our democracy that democrats would need to change election laws to combat. Remember this date…Jan 12. The date insurgents, via a surprise attack, overwhelmed the Norwalk District E voting board with 400 plus ballots! This date will live in infamy along with Dec 7, 1941, 9/11, and Jan 6, 2021. I’m sure Trump is behind all of this.

Patrick Cooper January 12, 2022 at 11:44 am

I’ve said for some time now, if Norwalk is determined to vote in mostly democrats, then we simply need better democrats. Congratulations to District E for exposing to all Norwalk residents the “Harry’s insiders” vs “party affiliated” credentials that have determined seats, for far too long. It would even be better if more than 20% of the electorate paid attention.

Of course they will primary.

Make no mistake – this is a repudiation of the mayor and his bully tactics. People all over this city are sick of it – and some happen to be registered democrats. That the hand selected chair of the BOE Hostin and the mayors wife (2nd to last !) were left out says all you need to know about how District E feels about the current state of the Norwalk DTC.

As other comments have noted – the small circle of sycophants and folks with their snouts in the honey pot will all cry foul – because the status quo works for them (just not the rest of us). No one should hope this will change their minds or behaviors. All we can hope for is the other districts will take notice, and realize, you too can help rational voices be heard by getting the “Harry’s insiders” – out.

Seriously? January 12, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Or the “established” DTC Democrats can just say that they really won and that the vote had been rigged.

For all of the dirty politics already in play, e.g., the falsehood that some of the “insurgents” either weren’t registered Democrats, or the lie that they had only recently become members of the political party, now we have the charge that they waged a sneak attack because the victorious candidates filed on the last day, without warning the DTC old guard.

If that’s the best they can do for criticism, perhaps Nancy’s comment that the insurgent candidates were all Caucasian will help. (A few of the other District E victors are not.) If not that, then the charge is that there are too many Rowayton people representing a district that includes West Norwalk. The excuses make the complainers look weak and ineffective.

They won and they will represent ALL of District E with intelligence, with sensitivity, with drive and with integrity. That’s good enough for me.

Admiral January 12, 2022 at 2:20 pm

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.

What am I reading here? Why is this even being brought up?

The modern-day Democratic Party is very different from the one I grew up loving in the 80’s and 90’s.
The Party has left me and other moderates behind.

Good for the “insurgents.” They appear to able to cross party lines and listen to viewpoints outside of today’s far left, cancel culture society.

Michael McGuire January 12, 2022 at 2:28 pm

This is truly laughable; you can’t make this up. At first, I thought this was a James Cahn satire piece.

So to summarize District E had an ‘insurrection’ by the Rowayton 11 who dared to engage the voting public to record levels of participation in the democratic process of voting. How dare they. Something must be done, a primary at least. Better yet, lets invoke racism as the bludgeon to beat down this well-heeled insurrection.

Yet the ‘insiders’ were clueless about this Insurrectionist Coup . Come on Nancy, this is Rowayton where rumors run rampant. The only way these 11 insurrectionists could possibly whip the voting public without the “insiders’ of Harry Riling’s monolithic juggernaut knowing is that the ‘insiders’ are so completely out of touch. Where is your journalistic curiosity?

But what I really love is the ruthless tenacity and absolute attention to voter integrity of the entire process from ballot box to final tally. From zoom coverage, every ballot scrutinized, all to count every LEGAL vote under the ever-watchful eye of each sides handpicked ballot adjudicators who were allowed to actually see each ballot of this purely Democratic rumble.

While I appreciate the thoroughness and fairness of this process, I must also note the screaming hypocrisy when juxtaposed against the Democrats (local included) absolute dismissive attitude to national elections irregularities. But more to the point is the Dem’s support for Joe Biden now roaming the country with angry demands to overhaul the nation’s voting laws. And for what reason other than to counter the Republicans push to re-establish basic voter integrity laws that had been in place pre-Covid.

Wait, let me call James Cahn to see if he actually wrote this.

Andy January 12, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Congratulations to all of the winners! They are all well deserving of their new role. They are being painted as insurgents, alternatives, unqualified, etc. It could not be further from the truth. They are active members of the community, they volunteer their time, and after this past November’s election, they realized they had no voice within their own party.

So, they organized a bit, they put themselves out there, and they won…despite local Democrat leaders publicly endorsing their opponents.

I’m excited to see what they accomplish next.

Angry Norwalk Citizen January 12, 2022 at 4:21 pm

So the DTC wants to run a primary (at the taxpayer’s expense-I heard it can be $10,000+) because they LOST? Nothing illegal was done but they can’t handle opening up their small, incestuous group to newcomers? Right on their homepage they say “Norwalk’s Democrats work every day towards a bright future for our city but we need you to join the party.” Guess they want people to join but not run for office….

Want to talk about what is unfair?

How about the mayor texting constituents begging people to come vote for his wife?

Or BOE member Colin Hosten using his DTC distribution email list to spread lies. “Right now there are people actively trying to overthrow the Democratic Town Committee, because they didn’t get their way in the last election.”

Or Tom Livingston sending a robo call (who pays for that??) incorrectly claiming that the new slate was trying to “take away the progress we have made” and that he did not support them?

Seems unfair that one group can utilize the money and power of elected officials to try and get their win….and then demand another election when they lose.

If they go towards a primary, I suspect this will only get uglier. How about they save us $10,000+ and actually try to work with others??

Henry smith January 12, 2022 at 6:31 pm

Nancy, What was “the battle” Jody Satler lost to Mary Ellen Flaherty Ludwig? Was there a vote that I somehow missed?

Taxpayer January 12, 2022 at 11:43 pm

This is awesome, very well done and a good thing for Norwalk.

The skin color thing is weird to read about these days

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski January 13, 2022 at 9:14 am

In answer to Henry Smith: As stated in the article, Mary Ellen Flaherty Ludwig “won a recent battle with Sattler to take the BoE seat formerly held by the late Mike Barbis.”
That is, the death of Mike Barbis created a vacancy on the Board of Education. To fill a vacancy, there’s a vote by the members of the Town Committee of the party of the member who created the vacancy. Since Mike Barbis was an in-district BOE member representing District E, the existing 11 DTC members in District E voted to fill the vacancy. They chose Mary Ellen Flaherty Ludwig, not Jody Sattler, to fill out Barbis’s term.
The in-district BOE terms are due to expire in 2023, as BOE members serve four-year terms that are staggered between the four at-large members and the five in-district members. The District E members of the DTC will vote in the summer of 2023 to endorse Democratic Party in-district candidates, including BOE.

Highland Avenue Neighbor January 13, 2022 at 9:18 am

Wait there was an election that mandated “in-person” voting only during the height of the pandemic!! I hope that nobody felt disenfranchised that there was no extended voting or mail-in voting. And no fear of it turning into a super spreader event? I assume that voter ID was required? The hypocrisy from the Democratic Party on recent voting is laughable. Perhaps NON can elaborate. And NON also what is a developed DTC member vs non-developed. And one more thing NON who exactly is calling out fellow citizens insurgents, I think apologies are in order.

Henry smith January 13, 2022 at 8:45 pm

Thank you Elsa for clarifying. That said, I am still unclear what the specific battle was. It seems the DTC just picked their own person rather than pick who had the most votes in the election for BOE from the people of Norwalk, no?

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski January 14, 2022 at 5:51 pm

Henry Smith, the choice of the word “battle” would have been up to the writer of the article.

I imagine some District E voters (for example, those who signed a petition in favor of having Jody Sattler elected to fill Mike Barbis’s seat) may have viewed it as a battle. Similarly, some District E voters who favored the (for lack of a better term) “insider” slate may have felt under attack or embattled. I am not a District E resident, so I can’t speak for them as to their feelings or the words they might use to describe the event.

JustaTaxpayer January 15, 2022 at 9:07 am

I heard that many of the 11 Whit’s people had DNA tests and have some Latin and American Indian trace DNA

Aimee Ableman January 15, 2022 at 1:07 pm

To Nancy/NON:
I am one of the endorsed candidates in District E for Norwalk Democratic Town Committee (NDTC). On behalf of all of the endorsed candidates, I am writing today to kindly request that you remove the political terminology “Independent(s)” from your description of our candidacy. It has not gone unnoticed that your articles first suggested that our running for DTC was at the behest of Lisa Brinton who recently ran for Common Council on the Independent ticket, but was unsuccessful. You have now updated your article to say, “The 11 members of the Independents for Norwalk-inspired alternative slate, viewed as “insurgents” by some…” I can assure you that as registered Democrats, we are not and have not been inspired by the Independent Party and I must instruct you to remove this terminology.
Similarly, we do not consider ourselves “insurgents”; however that label is not as concerning as it is such an exaggeration of exercising our democratic right to run for DTC.

We are 11 individuals who come from various backgrounds and life experiences but ALL identify ourselves under the wide political umbrella of the Democratic party. We are: parents, volunteers, an engineer, medical doctor, television producer, teacher, parks and recreation employee, IT director, real estate broker, former IBM employee, former labor relations professional and high school student. All of us have children who have attended public schools within Norwalk, with the exception of Camille Legnani, who is a HS senior at Brien McMahon. As active community members, we strongly believe in volunteering within our community, which can be witnessed by our participation in NPS School Governance Councils and PTAs, local board memberships and multiple volunteer organizations. We all love raising our families within our vibrant and diverse city of Norwalk and embrace the multicultural nature of our home. We cannot wait to get to work.

Nancy Guenther Chapman January 15, 2022 at 1:58 pm

Aimee, I have not reported that you are independents. Jody Sattler ran on the Independents for Norwalk line and I’ve been told she organized this effort. She hasn’t replied to the emails I sent seeking clarification.

I’ve also reported that you were viewed as insurgents by some. I didn’t say you were indeed insurgents. I also accurately reported that some people thought Lisa had organized this slate. I contacted Lisa and included her rebuttal in the story.

Stuart Wells provided me with party affiliation history for the new candidates and I added that to the story.

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