Mirroring the nationwide trend for Tuesday’s Election Day, Wilton Democrats won big yesterday, as Deborah McFadden handily won a seat on the Board of Selectmen, and two of the three open Board of Education seats went to Democrats Deborah Low and Gretchen Jeanes.
Joining McFadden on the BOS will be Republican Lori Bufano, who won re-election as the second highest vote getter in that race; her fellow RTC running partner, Josh Cole, was unsuccessful in his bid for selectman.
For the BOE race, the RTC’s Glenn Hemmerle was the third candidate tapped by voters, winning re-election for a second term.
The night’s other major voting results news story was the response by voters to two unusual ballot situations–they handed losses both to former RTC chair Al Alper, whose distant 4th place results in the BOS race was a coda on a fractured rift within his party, and to Republican Andrea Preston, whose remarks on Facebook stirred controversy and backlash that cost her party the BOE seat.
In the day’s other contested race, Democrats were the top vote getters for 4-year Planning & Zoning Commission terms, with Eric Fanwick and Doris Knapp winning seats along with Peter Shiue, Sally Poundstone and Chris Pagliaro from the RTC; petition candidate Melissa-Jean Rotini didn’t get to keep her seat but had a strong showing for the only candidate not backed by a party.
Rotini acknowledged that the established party machine in Wilton had an impact on the outcome, but says she was pleased with the response she did get to her campaign.
“My campaign was about qualifications and listening to the residents. The vote totals show broad bi-partisan support for my candidacy, and I thank all those who rejected party-line voting to support me. Considering I had no party behind me, and that the campaign against me urged party-line voting and not casting all ones votes, our numbers truly are remarkable! While I am disappointed that I will be unable to continue my work as a member of P&Z, I am proud of the positive discourse that we have started about the need for our town officials to be qualified for the jobs they hold. My sincerest thanks go to all those who supported me throughout my campaign and I would like to assure them that based upon the vote totals, it is clear to me that there is an outcry for qualified, free-thinking town officials.”
DTC chair McFadden says her party’s victories were the result of concerted effort to change the campaign game in Wilton for the DTC, which has been the perennial bridesmaid, never the bride in town politics.
“We won one of the most aggressive races we have ever run,” she notes, referring to robocalls, mailings, door-to-door campaigning and more. “We did things we had never done before, and I’ve been active in the DTC for 20 years. We really upped our game and it paid off.” Plus, she adds, “We had great candidates, and we worked on turnout. and we worked on crossover votes, and reached across to unaffiliated voters.”
She adds that the town Democrats were helped other factors. “People weren’t happy with Trump, so we had new people come on board; we had people who weren’t happy with what was happening on the state level; and we had people who weren’t happy with situations on the Wilton level.”
That effort still didn’t take away from the surprise and the celebration.
“We were shocked. We were the high vote getters in a lot of these races. That just doesn’t happen in Wilton. As the numbers started to come in I was almost in tears, that just doesn’t happen to Democrats in Wilton. The fact that it happened in multiple races, this is the best election return that I think Democrats have had in Wilton, I think ever.”
RTC chair Bill Lalor congratulated McFadden on her win, and said he was proud of the races run by his candidates, but that Alper’s decision to run after not getting his party’s nod impacted the outcome. “It was a good campaign. I’m proud of Josh and Lori. But when you look at the results, Al’s candidacy was a big drag on the GOP ticket.”
Looking ahead, Lalor isn’t sure what long-term impact the campaign events will have on his party.
“This is a group of a few dozen hard-working, qualified, smart people. We’ll go forward. The RTC will take a look at the results, we’ll see what the voters said, and move forward from there,” he notes.
As for whether he thought the RTC could have done something different in the week leading up to the election in the way it handled the backlash to Preston’s social media controversy, he says election night was too early to give a post-mortem. “The RTC supports its candidates.”
Cole was pleased with the campaign he and Bufano ran, noting that it was a positive one, but that it was “unfortunate” the party couldn’t unite behind the endorsed candidates. “We knew it was a possibility, but I’m happy with the race we ran, it was positive, unlike another candidate started to do in the last week.” He adds that he’s excited to continue serving the town as chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, he’ll stay involved and wants to do more to help the town.
Rotini My campaign was about qualifications and listening to the residents. The vote totals show broad bi-partisan support for my candidacy, and I thank all those who rejected party-line voting to support me. Considering I had no party behind me, and that the campaign against me urged party-line voting and not casting all ones votes, our numbers truly are remarkable! While I am disappointed that I will be unable to continue my work as a member of P&Z, I am proud of the positive discourse that we have started about the need for our town officials to be qualified for the jobs they hold. My sincerest thanks go to all those who supported me throughout my campaign and I would like to assure them that based upon the vote totals, it is clear to me that there is an outcry for qualified, free-thinking town officials.
(Winners in BOLD)
Deborah McFadden (D) 2294
Joshua Cole (R) 1744
Lori Bufano (R) 2084
Al Alper (Petition) 611
Deborah Low (D) 2847
Gretchen Jeanes (D) 2420
Andrea Preston (R) 1540
Glenn Hemmerle (R) 2468
Eric Fanwick (D) 2374
Doris Knapp (D) 2466
Peter Shiue (R) 2280
Sally Poundstone (R) 2151
Chris Pagliaro (R) 2257
Melissa Rotini (Petition) 1554
Richard Creeth (D) 2720
Stewart Koenigsberg (R) 2416
Jeffrey Rutishauser (R) 2428
Bas Nabulsi (D) 2651
Rick Tomasetti (R) 2407
Matthew Murphy (R) 2336
Rudy Hoefling (R) 2440
Tom Gunther (D) 2639
Kenny Rhodes (R) 2421
Jaclyn Coleman (D) 2614
Tracy Serpa (R) 2433
Bo Mitchell (D) 1966
Ernest Ricco (D) 1931
Warren Serenbetz (R) 1815
Christopher Gardner (R) 2111
Raymond Tobiassen (R) 1713