NORWALK, Conn. – David Watts, the controversial District A Common Councilman, stunned five-term state Rep. Chris Perone Tuesday night to win the endorsement of the District 137 Democrats for a run at Perone’s seat in the General Assembly.
Watts out-polled Perone, 135 to 99, to win the party endorsement in Tuesday night’s caucus, held at Tracey Elementary School. Perone said he would do the work to force a primary in August. “The work” means collecting 228 petition signatures, representing 5 percent of registered District 137 voters, by June 10.
“I think it would be the same if the numbers were reversed,” Perone said. “I always got the sense that David would primary me if this had gone the other way. Logistically, it’s a Tuesday night, it’s a school night, that we got as many people here is pretty amazing, but it is a tough ask for two hours on a Tuesday night to come out rather than the 14-hour window that we have for a normal election.”
The high turnout included a school bus full of Watts supporters.
“I had a school bus. I organized them,” Watts said. “… Had cars drive them to the designation, threw them up on the bus, had a spot designated for the school bus.”
The two candidates shook hands after the count was announced. Watts credited his 9-year-old son with his bid for state rep.
“It was a council meeting, I was getting hammered. DJ said, ‘You know what, I think you need to move up one step.’ For weeks he would say ‘We need to move up one step.’ I gotta thank my son, who inspires me every day,” Watts said.
Watts also thanked his mother, his organizers and former Mayor Alex Knopp, who was chairman of the caucus.
“I would not be here if not for Mayor Alex Knopp,” Watts said. “He recruited me years ago and he encouraged me to get involved. He put me on the Human Relations commission, on the Zoning Commission, and he told me, ‘One day you’re going to be the future at some point.’ I thank Alex every day.”
“I congratulate David on the work that he did,” Perone said. “The bus was impressive, but frankly the work that he put into it was good. My job is to continue forward to talk about what I think is the right thing for our city.”
Perone went on to explain to reporters that he only had 10 days to campaign after the end of the legislative session. He was not surprised by the outcome, he said, pointing out that it was a 36-vote difference.
The vote included six provisional ballots.
“He looked to turn his vote out; I had a shorter window,” Perone said. “My feeling is it’s not entirely indicative of the larger conversation that I feel that I want to have with the voters. The fact is, I campaigned for an open and accessible political process, the Citizen’s Election Program. I believe in an open government. I believe in thorough debate on the issues. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a coronation, as they say. But this is really a work review. We all can be reviewed in our job. We have to make our case as to why we deserve to go back to Hartford and I have never taken that for granted. I continue to take that message out to the people in my district.”
He stressed that he was complimenting Watts.
“I have been in Norwalk campaigning 15 years or so, I’ve never seen (a bus full of voters) before,” Perone said. “It was more about, as I called voters, as I knocked on their doors in the last 10 days, it was clear that people want to have a conversation about the issues and so I believe that is what we are going to be doing going forward.”
Watts said the bus was also his son’s idea.
“He said we need to create bus routes like an average school day to be sure people, the maximum amount of people, would vote at the start of the caucus,” Watts said in an early Wednesday email exchange.
Watts never officially announced his candidacy. NancyOnNorwalk found the documents online in the Connecticut Secretary of State’s website and published a story.
Watts said in the early Wednesday email exchange that he had delayed because his mother is ill and he wanted to wait so she could be at the announcement.
Perone said the election is “really not about candidates.”
“It’s about what the message is,” he said. “My message has always been putting the people first, putting the needs, the business of education first, people’s access to health care, in the forefront of what I’m talking about. I look forward to having a conversation with the voters going forward.”
NORWALK, Conn. – David Watts, the controversial District A Common Councilman, stunned five-term state Rep. Chris Perone tonight to win the endorsement of the District 137 Democrats for a run at Perone’s seat in the General Assembly.
Watts outpolled Perone, 135 to 99, to win the party endorsement.
There was no surprise in the 140th District, where incumbent Bruce Morris beat challenger Warren Peña, 222-99. Peña plans to force a primary Aug. 12.
Perone qualified to be on the Aug. 12 primary ballot.
The winners of the primary will move on to the Nov. 4 election.
This story will be updated.