Election 2022 Special Report: Wilton Debates, Bumpy Road Ahead — Kim Healy, Candidate Interview

Every election season for the last several years, candidate debates in Wilton have been organized by the Wilton League of Women Voters (LVW) and co-sponsored by the Wilton Library and GOOD Morning Wilton.

Today, GOOD Morning Wilton is publishing a special look at how this year’s candidate debates, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25, almost derailed thanks to miscommunication, misunderstandings and the discord that often accompanies politics. And while everyone involved has tried to work to make sure the debates will go on as hoped, the collateral damage that’s resulted may leave a lasting mark. 

GMW is telling the story in several parts. To do so, we’ve either spoken directly to most of the key participants or sent questions by email, and in some instances have been provided statements. We’ve published a comprehensive overview and timeline, as well as several other articles and interviews that add more detail. 

This story below contains an interview with Kim Healy, the Republican candidate for State Representative (42nd District). The events and dates to which she refers can be tracked on the timeline of events.

Other key chapters published today: [This will be updated with live links as other parts are published]

Healy began by recounting her own timeline and recollection of events related to the debates and everything that’s happened. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity. No content or meaning has been changed.

Kim Healy:  Most towns sent us an informal invitation, giving us a few dates, saying, ‘These are the dates and times we’re thinking about having the debate. We knew that Ridgefield would have four State Rep candidates on the stage for 50 minutes, followed with four State Senate candidates for 50 minutes. And then New Canaan was six candidates for one hour total, all finished.

And we knew the rules, they’re always the same, so when it comes down to what these ad are saying, the rules are always the same — statewide candidates are only asked questions that pertain to whatever the elected position was that you would be going for.

So [on Sept. 7] when we got Wilton[‘s invitation] and heard it was two and a half hours almost, and only four of us, we thought, well, let’s go together. We should probably be asked the same questions. The job is the same. Really, there is no difference, basically — I would be able to answer a question that Toni got or vice-versa. I provided to the League all of the other towns’ timing and we just suggested, in the sake of trying to get people to actually listen for the whole time, we just thought it was too long and, just judging by what the other towns were doing, we suggested that they shortened it up. If they put us together, if they didn’t want to put us together, that was their prerogative. But the big thing was time. We just didn’t think it was worth the viewer’s time or the people in the room’s time to have us there the whole two-and-a-half hours or whatever. That was the only thing we ever communicated about.

The second email about the debate said they were going to shorten it to 50 minutes each, but we were going to be separated, so a total of 100 minutes for the whole thing, and then closing statements or something like that.

On Tuesday or Wednesday [Sept. 13/14], the Hearst [reporter called] and some emails and we kind of knew there was something coming. Toni got the call first. I got an email and then I spoke to them. “They said [they had] a press release from Keith and a press release from Ceci Maher saying that we refused to discuss national issues at the debate. And I said, ‘Well, that’s false. That’s a League rule. And I haven’t said a thing about topics ever. I fully expect to be asked questions on abortion, because we have abortion laws in Connecticut and they can be changed. So why would I not expect that? But do I expect questions on foreign policy or border walls or anything like that? I do not because I will have no authority over any kind of decisions on that kind of stuff.

[During the Wilton League of Women Voter’s luncheon event on Thursday, Sept. 15 (unrelated to the election), Healy said she learned more about why her Democratic opponent, Keith Denning, was upset.]

Healy: A comment [was made] about some topics were going to be off the table [at the debate], something to that effect, because of candidates, not because of the league. And that’s when we realized what was being discussed wasn’t just about time. And Keith said he was going to file a complaint because he wasn’t going to be able to talk about certain issues at the debate that he wanted, that he thought people wanted, that we should debate about. And he mentioned Jan. 6th. I don’t want to put words in his mouth because I don’t really remember.

So the League then agreed to have a meeting about it on Friday, [Sept. 16], which we were all able to attend as candidates.

By the time that meeting ended, I felt we were done because the League admitted it was their requirement. And they were clear it was their mistake, I guess.

[GMW reached out to both Wilton LWV Convener Tina Gardner and Program Chair Pam Klem to ask further questions beyond the statements they provided. They have declined to say anything more than what is contained in those statements. GMW has reached out to other members of the LWV who were present at the Sept. 16 meeting, but thus far, the statement about misleading Denning has not been corroborated.]

Then the [social media] ads [from the Democrats] started coming and people started sending me screenshots. So I forwarded them to the League and to Pam Klem. I know there are many members of the lLeague who are also on the Wilton Democratic Town Committee. They know these are false statements and I expect them to be taken down. And I would like an apology because spreading lies about a candidate is wrong. And we just went through the weekend and they clearly haven’t come down. People are commenting and sending me them.

You know, I haven’t met anyone that was like, ‘Where do you stand on [aborrtion]? Is this really what we expect of our local candidates, to call me extreme? I’m on the Board of Selectmen. I’m too extreme for Connecticut — does that mean I’m too extreme for Wilton? I did send the screenshots of the ads to [Democratic BOS members] Bas Nabulsi and Ross Tartell because I think they should know if they didn’t know already. Do I seem extreme to them? Obviously I don’t expect them to reply back that they do, but I do not consider myself extreme in the least.

One came out from a PAC that the House Democrats have, but it was approved by Keith Denning. Right on it, it calls me a ‘MAGA Republican’ and it says I’m ‘too extreme for Connecticut.’ I actually checked with an attorney. It’s not, ‘She seems like she won’t talk about Roe,’ it is a clear and direct lie about it. It indicates that I am lying. It’s making a statement, a fact that I did something, which I did not do.

The other one comes from and was paid for by the Wilton Dems.

GOOD Morning Wilton: So, were there any other requests or suggestions aside from shortening it?

Healy: From the [Republican] candidates? No, the candidates’ were only were about timing. I think the RTC sent in something [to the League].

GMW: Something separate from what you sent in?

Healy: Yes.

GMW: So when you got the email about tweaks to the timing —

Healy: And then they mentioned a second thing. It says there were two changes.

GMW: Yes. The second change was clarifying to the screeners that the only questions that could be asked are state issues.

Healy: I did ask Pam to clarify who asked for that change and what that even meant, because I did not know what that meant, and we did not ask for that. And it doesn’t actually sound very different than… I didn’t understand why it was even considered a ‘second’ clarification since it was [already] in the first invitation.

GMW: So, otherwise, based on what was emailed, you thought that what they sent was fine and not a problem? Everything’s moving on to the debates and great? Am I characterizing your response to that email correctly?

Healy: I didn’t have any response, until I realized that it was being interpreted by… Keith obviously took it as — I don’t wanna quote him, but something like he thought they were favoring me or it was done as a favor.

GMW: But before Keith weighed in, what was your reaction when you opened that email? Did that seem okay? Like, great, moving on to the debates? 

Healy: I didn’t react except that I thought it was still probably too long, but what were we going to do at that point? I don’t know if at that point I sent it again, the Ridgefield timetable, I may have just reiterated the reasoning for asking for it to be shorter. But no, I didn’t even think about it. Because it didn’t seem like any difference.

But I did write to Pam Klem on either Wednesday or Thursday [Sept. 14 or 15], when I realized that it was being misunderstood. I did question what this was about. And Pam just said she couldn’t respond because not all the candidates were on the email chain though. I don’t know why she just didn’t add them and reply, but whatever.

GMW: The word that was used [by the League] and the word that your opponent used with me in an interview was that you gave an ultimatum. He said that he was told by the League that the request was made by you, and that you gave an ultimatum. How do you respond to that?

Healy: Ultimatum on what?

GMW: On what could be asked…

Healy: It’s completely false. The rules are what the rules were set out in advance. And our standard throughout the League’s history, from my understanding.

GMW: I want to make sure, because I know you talked about this a few minutes ago, but I want to keep going over it, so there’s no misunderstanding for readers or for anyone involved. Did you ever say, ‘I don’t want any questions about Roe v. Wade or abortion asked?’

Healy: Like I said, I expect questions on abortion. Do I expect to be asked questions about the Supreme Court? No, but I mean, I never asked for anything except a time change.

You should interview people that were at the League meeting [on Friday, Sept. 16] because the League took responsibility for misleading [Keith] [at that meeting].

[GMW reached out to both Wilton LWV Convener Tina Gardner and Program Chair Pam Klem to ask further questions beyond the statements they provided. They have declined to say anything more than what is contained in those statements. GMW has reached out to other members of the LWV who were present at the Sept. 16 meeting, but thus far, the statement about misleading Denning has not been corroborated.]

GMW: Ultimately much of this seems like a huge game of telephone, basically, with unfortunate results.

Healy: I have asked for a public apology from the League and a public apology from the Wilton Dems and from Keith Denning. Because he knows since that meeting [on Friday] that this is not true. I have not heard anything from any of these people, but I know that they are being emailed, saying they need to take the ads down and apologize because they’re spreading lies, which is just not what Wilton is about.

I never thought it would get this far. I thought when I asked Pam Klem, whose husband is [DTC Chair] Tom Dubin… I thought when I informed her early Friday that these ads were out and that she knew they were lies and she knew they were lies before they got posted, because she knew everything from the beginning, that they would do the right thing and take them down. I never thought this was going to get this far.

They’re targeted ads. I would love to know who they’re targeting. I would like to know who their reach. My feeling is they should have to contact every one of those people. Not that they have an ability to do that, but they really should have to do that. I’m not going to be able to get to them before the election and tell them that it’s lies.

And I really don’t run a campaign like that. I don’t talk about him. I don’t mention him. I ask people what’s on their mind and that’s it. I talk about myself and I want to know what they are worried about. Full stop. I’m just going to keep doing that.

GMW: There was something that Keith said in his interview with me, paraphrasing your statement at Friday’s league meeting, when you said something like, ‘I’m not sure if Keith isn’t willing to follow the rules.'”

Healy: My concern is that he’s going just go rogue because I think that’s what he said at the LWV meeting, that he’s going to talk about whatever he wants to at the debate and I’m not going to debate him if he’s not going to follow the rules.

I don’t want him up there ranting at me, I’m not gonna put up with that, is what I am concerned about.

GMW: I’ll say the same thing to you that I said to Keith: a lot of times, in the game of politics for candidates, it doesn’t matter what question’s asked — they’ll answer what they want to answer.

Healy: I’ve never seen someone answer [by] going into something that’s unrelated to the job. They might answer a question with an answer that’s not really answering the question, we’ve seen that it’s like wordplay. But I’ve never seen them go off on a completely different tangent where it’s something outside of… you know, whatever.

I mean he knows he has a platform. He can talk about Jan. 6th all he wants. That’s what he thinks people want to know about? If he thinks that’s all they care about here, he can do mailers, he can do whatever he wants. But the League wants to have candidates answer questions about what they’re going to be doing on the job.

GMW: It’s been said to me several times that you’ve never definitively clarified where you stand on reproductive rights and abortion. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and it becomes even more of a state issue, it’s important for you to clarify where you do stand.

Healy: I went back the other day and researched, in 1990 the state of Connecticut voted on abortion, whether to allow it to be legalized. One hundred percent voted in the [State] Senate. Out of 148 voters, 129 of them voted ‘yes’ to this in our state. Using that as a baseline and knowing that there have been no serious attempts by Republicans, even when we had a tied Senate and such, there’s been no attempt to overturn this in the state. From talking to both sides, I do not ever anticipate it becoming an issue. Nobody wants… I don’t even know people who are pro-life that want it overturned because it becomes way too difficult to protect the life of the woman, when you tie the hands of doctors, justifying why they need to do what they need to do to save the life of the mother.

I’m not a drama person. I don’t anticipate it being a problem. I would vote not to overturn it, if that is what comes up. But who do they think is going to be asking for that? Well, I guess they have seven pro-life Democrats in the House, so maybe…

What is my stance? I’m a pro-choice candidate. Do I like going around saying that? I don’t think it’s something that I need to say, but I guess, with Roe versus Wade being overturned, maybe it is. But it’s pretty much established law in Connecticut, that the Democrats keep saying.

GMW:  I’m going to keep asking this in different ways, because for people who have preconceived ideas [about you], and the conversation around the [overturn] of Roe v. Wade and the state-level impact…

Healy: I think, honestly, it should be a separate reporting. This should be strictly about the fact that there are ads out there with lies in them that are making me look like an extreme candidate, which is false.

GMW: I’m trying to see if you can provide your testimony essentially, your [evidence] to [disprove] what they’re saying. And because a lot of people come at it with different beliefs. Some people see what’s happened in other states where, perhaps in those states in 1991, they too had allowed abortion, but given how this issue has changed in the last year or so, let’s say the election goes differently and there is a Republican majority in the CT legislature, and some of the new Republican and perhaps Democratic candidates who are elected are pro-life. And it becomes an issue that does get introduced. Can you tell people who are concerned about that, how you would vote if in that situation? 

Healy: I will answer this like I answer most questions, because it’s important that people understand if there was a stand-alone bill that banned abortion, I would vote against it. It should never be banned. It needs to be in law.

But there are times, and I’ve seen it happen in the last session, where they dump a whole bunch of crap in around these bills so that you’re forced to vote for them. So I would hope that our legislature would never do that. But if it’s simply on an issue basis, no.

Look, I 100% believe that women have the right to make their own decisions about their own bodies. Full stop, no questions. No man should ever.

And that’s why I think this makes me so mad. Because the fact that he’s a man making these statements makes me so upset.

GMW: The other ad that refers to you as a MAGA Republican. [In our interview], Keith said to me, ‘I believe all Republicans, if you call yourself a Republican, are MAGA Republicans.’ What’s your response to that?

Healy: It just shows how close-minded he is. How can we expect someone who thinks that way be able to represent his constituents in a fair manner?

GMW: We saw how critical state legislatures were after the last presidential election. If Connecticut were a state where a question about the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election came up, where do you stand on the legitimacy of it? If you had been in the state legislature, and there was a question in Connecticut about the legitimacy of our electors and the vote in Connecticut, and it came to the legislature, where do you stand (presuming you’re a state legislator at that point) on the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2020 Election?

Healy:  I get this question a lot, from lots of people. It’s not something that I shy away from, because it is important. I’m usually asked, ‘ Is Joe Biden our president? And what did you think of January 6th?’ or something like that.

What I say is, look, Joe Biden is our president. He was elected and he is our president. I was on the ballot in 2020, and I lost my election. And I do not question the results of the 2020 Election because I know firsthand. I was on the ballot and I know that I lost. No, I do not have any reason to suspect that there was a problem, in Connecticut at least.

Do I know anything about other states? I really can’t answer that, but I think that Joe Biden is our president. He received the most votes in the Electoral College, he won the election. So I never questioned it again. Do I believe the election was fair? Would I have voted to overturn it? No, I would not have done that.

GMW: And the statement that you are a MAGA Republican, being given that label, how do you respond to that?

Healy: What am I supposed to say? It’s clearly meant to be an attack on my character and I take huge offense to that. I’m an elected representative in Wilton. Maybe being naive, I thought this doesn’t really happen locally. It seems to only happen on national TV, but to think that a fellow resident of Wilton would say something about another person is just… ‘disappointing’ isn’t even the word. I mean, frankly I’m disgusted. And just, um, I don’t even know what the word I use. I’d say shocked, but again, maybe that’s naive of me. I just never anticipated somebody like that saying things about another townsperson, especially one that is already elected.

GMW: There’s been a lot said recently about the trend of “debate reluctance.” 

Healy: In Greenwich?

GMW: Yes, in Greenwich [where the local RTC directed its candidates not to participate in the League of Women Voters debate there]. Even Gov. Lamont has agreed to two debates and his opponent Bob Stefanowski wants more than just two. You see it more prevalent in other areas of the country. How important is the debate process to you with regard to Wilton voters and the process of our democracy? 

Healy: More and more every day, people aren’t paying attention. I don’t think they care. I don’t think they watch — again, which is why we wanted to keep it short.

Personally I thought we should get five questions: the economy, abortion, guns, the environment, and they always give an election question. Those are the five topics I hear about the most. I think that’s what differentiates candidates.

Look, I’m an accountant, I’m a tax person. I’m going to focus on the economy first. I think that is the best way to help people. A strong economy can support everything else that you need underneath it. But you know, other people — Keith, clearly he’s into abortion or whatever, I don’t know. Other candidates find other issues to be their most important issue.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This is a really important interview. I have repeatedly criticized local Democrats for stressing issues that aren’t (gun control in one of the 3 states that already have the strictest laws) and abortion (under no state-level threat in CT) and Republicans for stressing issues that state legislators have little control over (inflation and before they started coming down, gas prices). Candidates need to talk about 8-30g, state pension fund under-funding (2nd worse in the nation on a per-capita basis), education, tolls and overall state spending. Anything else is an attempt to divert voters’ attention.

  2. It’s a Code Blue happening November 8…..Keith is a good man. Why is Kim questioning Keith’s request for fairness…
    He does not send hateful emogis to local politicians. He does not make fun of legal asylum seekers suckered by southern governors on social media. Senior Local GOP do…
    This is still the divisive Former President talking…

  3. Healy: “No, I do not have any reason to suspect that there was a problem, in Connecticut at least. Do I know anything about other states? I really can’t answer that…”

    Sure sounds like a MAGA Republican to me. How about an unequivocal answer that there is ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER of issues with the 2020 election in ANY state? Trump lost fair and square and it was not close. This is why all of these questions are fair game. It is why all Republicans at every level of elected office should be on the record with clear answers to these questions. Why is it still so hard for Republicans to say this in 2022?

  4. I trust the LWV did not make up the fact that an ultimatum was made – if “Roe” was on the table, the republican candidates would not debate. It’s tough to believe Kim Healy didn’t know what her colleague, Peter Wrampe, head of the WRTC, demanded of the LWV. Wrampe should be transparent as to conversations he had with the candidates and LWV. He also apparently requested a “special master” selected by republicans to vet (censor) constituent debate questions. If Kim Healy really didn’t know about these RTC strong-arm tactics, where is her outrage about that? How could the RTC do this to her? It’s disgusting, shocking – especially because (she reminds us, twice) she’s an elected official. Does she feel elected officials are above the…? Perhaps she should demand an apology from her own party.

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