NORWALK, Conn. – The expected Republican August fight over Larry Cafero’s statehouse seat was made official Thursday in an announcement by Fred Wilms at the Republican Town Committee meeting.
“I announced here tonight that I have filed the paperwork with the secretary of state (to force a primary),” Wilms said, after the meeting concluded.
Wilms and Zoning Commission Vice Chairwoman Emily Wilson, the party’s endorsed candidate to take over from retiring state Rep. Larry Cafero, will compete for votes in the 142nd District, which includes part of Norwalk and part of New Canaan. The winner of the Aug. 12 primary will likely face Democrat Andy Garfunkel, former town clerk, who was nominated by Democrats earlier this week and who appears to have no opponents.
Wilson received four votes at the recent Republican 142nd District convention, while Wilms received two. All he has to do is announce that he wants to primary — no signatures needed, according to Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells.
“Because this district is partially in New Canaan and mostly in Norwalk, it is a multi-town district and, under the rules, both major parties’ candidates are chosen at conventions – and the 15 percent rule applies,” Wells wrote in an email. “Any candidate getting 15 percent of the vote at the convention is entitled to have a primary. All they do is fill out a form and get the convention officials to state that they got the required percentage. Wilms got 33 percent of the votes at his convention (2) while the party’s endorsed candidate got 67 percent (4).”
Wilms said he has qualified for state funding under the Citizens Election Program, having raised at least $5,000 with at least 150 contributors from the district giving him at least $5 and a maximum $100. That means he gets a $11,140 grant.
“I am ready to go,” Wilms said. “I have the ballot access, I don’t have to go out and knock on doors to get the signatures, I’ve got the money, just moving forward to Aug. 12.”
Why would Republicans choose him over Wilson?
“Hopefully they choose me for my experience, the leadership I exhibited,” he said. “As chair of the BET (Board of Estimate and Taxation) I was able to put budgets together, bring taxpayers and the people who need services together and do it in a way that kept the city’s financial strength going, even through the worst recession in 80 years, able to work with others and make things happen and do it in a way where everyone felt at least part of the process.”
Cafero appointed Wilms to the Transportation Strategy Board in 2007. Wilms said the three-year term gave him state-level experience. He is a senior vice president of Webster Bank.
“I am in charge of all our small business relationships in lower Fairfield County, so I know what small businesses need in order to succeed,” he said. “People know me from around town, whether it’s from the PTO’s or the marching band parents, or the senior center. People see me in those capacities.”
Wilson said she plans to focus on the issues.
“I am focused on running as the nominated candidate,” Wilson said. “Focusing on the issues and what needs to get fixed in the state, and how the state issues are impacting Norwalk and New Canaan.
Why would voters choose her?
“Connecticut needs to get fixed,” she said. “We need to get the financial house in order. We need to make sure the actions up in Hartford are not having adverse effects on Norwalk and New Canaan.”
Both gave speeches. Wilms said he had spoken off the cuff. Wilson had a prepared text, which she said summed up everything:
“When I adopted Norwalk as my hometown, I had no idea where my path in life would take me. I hadn’t even graduated from law school. I opened my law practice and I joined the board of the Senior Center. I was appointed to the Conservation Commission and then the Zoning Commission. I did so because it’s better to take part and effect positive actions than to complain about results, as my parents taught me. I am very excited for this opportunity to take action and bring positive change to Connecticut.
“It would be impossible to talk about becoming the next state representative for Norwalk and New Canaan without recognizing the tremendous work done by Larry for two decades. He has been a strong and reasoned voice in Hartford. I am so grateful to have him as a role model. He has shown me how to serve the public with integrity and good humor. So I thank Larry for all he has done and look forward to finding out what’s next for him.
“Over the last few years, Connecticut has topped nearly every worst list released, most recently, the worst place to retire. We know why. Connecticut over taxes, over spends, over borrows and regulates business out of business. Our seniors are moving away because the cost of living is too high. The college students and grads are staying away because the job market is dismal.
“I believe a few changes can turn around the economic crisis in Connecticut. Reforming the tax case is a good start. By way of example, the Tax Foundation, a nationally recognized tax research group, ranks states on the basis of their business tax climate. For 2014, Connecticut ranked at 42nd place. North Carolina came in at 44th. The state legislature in North Carolina looked to stimulate business development by reforming their tax code. Among the tax eliminations and reductions, the reduced the personal income tax rate and eliminated the estate tax. The Tax Foundation now estimates that the over haul of the tax code will raise North Carolina’s ranking to 17th and that is like a bright billboard advertising that the state of North Carolina is open for business.
“By employing similar measures to our own tax code we create incentives for economic growth in the private sector. Rather than fleeing the state, new businesses will be able to open and small businesses now struggling can grow. As businesses grow, so will the job market.
“As I said, the tax code is a good place to start. For Norwalkers, education funding is still fundamentally inequitable because of misconceptions about our city. Investments in infrastructure like Metro North is vital for the economy especially in Fairfield County. These are just a couple of the state issues effecting us.
“We are fortunate to be here in Norwalk, a city that has been a great example of what well managed and responsible government looks like. I’m proud of the part that I have played in keeping Norwalk moving. I intend on taking the same dedication, negotiation skills and integrity to Hartford to make Connecticut a place where people can thrive.”