Opinion: Time for Democrats to choose their mayoral candidate

NORWALK, Conn. – The time has come for the promising, the posturing and the sniping to end. Today, Norwalk’s Democrats will go to the polls to select a candidate to challenge four-term incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia in the November election.

The primary election comes not a moment too soon for a party that has seen its reputation – and an eye – bloodied over the past two years since former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel lost his challenge to Moccia by some 850 votes.

Garfunkel is back to try again, but this time he has company in the form of three other Democrats who hope to get a shot at unseating the incumbent. Former Police Chief Harry Rilling, District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra and District A Common Councilman Matt Miklave have all taken their case to the people after the Democratic Town Committee could not choose a candidate to back at its July convention.

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. If you don’t know where to vote, click here.

Mangiacopra’s and Rilling’s campaigns are offering voters rides to the polls. To hitch a ride from the Mangiacopra organization, call (203) 957-3525. To get a ride from Rilling’s people, contact (203) 295-4945 or email [email protected]. The Garfunkel and Miklave campaigns did not respond to a request for information about rides, nor is there any indication of the service on their websites.

Garfunkel, in fact, has not responded to many inquiries and has skipped several candidate forums and events. Still, late information – admittedly second hand – suggests he could post a respectable showing in today’s vote.

Rilling, who raised more money in Norwalk and got more ballot petition signatures faster than anyone – and by a good margin – is the frontrunner going into the primary. This despite a flurry of negative campaigning – some direct, some by implication – aimed at the 67-year-old former cop. Mangiacopra, who took his share of shots at Rilling throughout the campaign, also was targeted by fellow Democrat Matt Miklave, who put out a series of mailings telling voters that, should either Mangiacopra or Rilling become mayor, their property taxes would soar.

The mailings also claimed Miklave’s pet project, performance-based budgeting, would cut $7 million out of the budget. Miklave has, from the start, vowed to clean house at the Democratic Town Committee, and his colorful mailers played heavily to that theme. Between the claims about his two perceived main rivals and his disdain for the DTC, one would have thought Miklave was running as a Republican.

Miklave released results of an internal poll of 300 registered Democrats taken near the end of August that showed he was leading the race with 16 percent of the vote to Rilling’s 12 percent, with Mangiacopra and Garfunkel tied at 4 percent each. That left 64 percent either undecided or refusing to answer.

The NancyOnNorwalk comment section has been active, with most of the support and attacks coming from Rilling and Mangiacopra backers, with a good number of Miklave fans thrown in. But we are aware that the blogs, comment sections and chat rooms are not always representative of what the great silent majority is thinking.

Looking into our plastic knockoff of a crystal ball (the economy, you know), we see a Rilling victory, with a surprisingly tight race for second place. Remember, Garfunkel came close two years ago, and that was after winning five citywide elections as town clerk. He is a well-liked and has good name recognition. And, despite his lack of an aggressive campaign, he just might have some strong backing amongst the citizenry. A good showing would challenge the notion that, for a primary, at least, money and media are more important than good, old-fashioned shoe leather.

NancyOnNorwalk will be making the rounds of the candidates’ haunts tonight. Garfunkel plans to await the outcome at Partner’s on First Street in East Norwalk. Rilling will wait it out at the Hilton Garden Inn on North Main Avenue, and Mangiacopra plans to hold an outdoor gathering on East Avenue – we were not able to get the exact address – near City Hall.

Miklave will be awaiting results at the Norwalk Inn, the preferred hangout of the Republican cognoscenti. “It’s a coup d’etat,” he said.


12 responses to “Opinion: Time for Democrats to choose their mayoral candidate”

  1. YourDaddy

    I cast my vote this morning for the only candidate who didn’t attack the other Democrats and isn’t beholden to any of the embarrassing DTC leadership – Garfunkel.

  2. Joe Espo

    Two points that most surely will spell disaster for Miklave: 1. that you called the primary for Rilling even BEFORE the polls opened (favoritism for an advertiser?) and, 2. Miklave is hanging out in republican territory.

  3. Daisy

    I’m begging Tony Ditrio will give free personal days to any Kendall employees who’ll work for Miklave. And then deny personal legitimate ones to others. Ain’t gonna matter.

  4. Dennis DiManis

    Four would-be career politicians, and another of the same currently in office. A career politician’s top priority is his/her career; all other concerns reside farther down on the daily to-do list.

  5. Admo

    Good Luck to all and don’t forget to vote!

  6. Don’t Panic

    Daily Voice is calling it for Rilling too but that is not what the unofficial counters at the polls are seeing. If you care, make sure you get out to vote today.

  7. D(ysfunctional)TC

    13 polling places open at what cost to the city? All because the DTC is a circus. My guess is this election costs more than a grade school library aide they all quack about.

  8. YourDaddy

    I wouldn’t be hanging around in front of City Hall tonight … somebody might be angry, and you never know what could happen!

  9. EastNorwalkChick

    Wonder what the turnout has been, does anyone know?

    1. Mark Chapman

      The Hour reported as of noon about 1300 votes were in including 100 absentee ballots. We will be updating soon. Nancy is visiting some of the polling places.

  10. D(ysfunctional)TC

    Regardless of affiliation, 1300 votes is pretty sad.

    Wasn’t moving to September from August supposed to increase turnout?

    Unintended, I am sure but I find it rich that the same Democrat party that looks to constantly change the game with new voting laws and regulations to benefit their cause is going to get burned big time by this move. For one they lost a month of campaigning against Moccia and two we find out today that most Democrats in the city could care less who they run against him.

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