The 2023 municipal election campaign just got a little more interesting. GOOD Morning Wilton has learned an unaffiliated candidate is taking steps to enter the race for the one open seat for a two-year term on the Board of Education.

Sara Sclafani, a 10-year resident and recent Miller-Driscoll PTA co-president, has started the process to get on the ballot in November as an unaffiliated candidate.

To do so, Sclafani has to meet certain requirements. She must collect at least 51 nominating signatures from registered voters in Wilton, and file it with the town clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

Under Connecticut General Statutes, the number of registered Wilton voters Sclafani needs to sign the petition supporting her campaign is at least 1% of the number of voters in the last election when the BOE was on the ballot.

Sclafani said she has “well surpassed” the number she needs to officially enter the race.

If her petition checks out and she gets on the ballot, she’ll face Republican Town Committee candidate Annie Chochos (R), who preceded Sclafani as M-D PTA co-president from 2019-2020. The Democratic Town Committee has not slated a candidate to run for the two-year term.

Sclafani told GMW she decided to enter the race after following the budget process “closely over the last couple of years,” and spoke in support of the Board of Education budget at several meetings during the FY’2024 budget process.

In an email responding to questions from GMW, Sclafani wrote that with two children in Wilton schools, she was motivated to enter the race “to ensure that we’re putting education first in Wilton,” and also counter “growing division and polarization.”

“In a world where division and polarization seem to be growing, it’s important to me that the elected representatives for our schools truly listen to the diverse perspectives within our community. I am committed to being a candidate who will respect the voices on all sides by working together to find common ground and address the unique needs of our students,” she said.

The political parties in Wilton can run unaffiliated candidates on their slates. This year, the RTC has endorsed unaffiliated candidates, including two people also running for the Board of Education — Heather Priest and Mark Shaner — but in the race for four-year seats.

The DTC has endorsed unaffiliated candidates in the past, but only registered Democrats appear on their ballot in 2023.

Sclafani said she did meet with members of one town political committee when she first considered running this past spring, but ultimately decided to run as an unaffilated candidate.

“The Board of Education is (or should be) a nonpartisan board… I have always identified as an unaffiliated voter, and running as an unaffiliated candidate is what makes sense for me. I am eager to work with any individuals or groups — regardless of political affiliation — who share in my values of putting education first and ensuring that our public schools foster an environment where every student is valued, respected, and provided equal opportunities to thrive,” she said.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the candidate’s last name. It is Sclafani.

2 replies on “Election 2023: Unaffiliated Candidate to Challenge for Wilton BOE”

  1. First off, this is great news: Sara is a fantastic candidate, she’s been a tireless advocate for the schools on the MD PTA and will be an enormous asset to Wilton and the BOE if elected.

    Second, if I might add a bit of color regarding party allocation rules and unaffiliated candidates: CT law limits the number of members on a municipal board from the same party, but the party is determined by registration *or* nomination; in other words, the fact that two of the Republicans’ candidates are registered as unaffiliated does not prevent them from counting as Republicans, so in the (horrifying) event the Republicans were to sweep all four BOE races this year, they would not be able to contend for the remaining two seats in 2025.

    On the other hand, an unaffiliated petition candidate like Sara doesn’t count towards anybody’s total, and there’s no guaranteed minimum number of seats, so it’s possible that the Republicans could emerge from this election with just one seat on the BOE. (still one too many, but maybe another year…)

    Parties are not allowed to nominate more candidates than the maximum number of seats they can gain, so the Democrats would not be allowed to nominate a candidate for this 2-year slot even if they wanted to, and also have to leave one of the 4-year slots empty. (if a party somehow ends up winning too many seats anyway due to registration, the extra seats go to the highest vote-getters not from that party, though IIRC 2-year seats actually take priority over 4-year ones)

    On the BOS, the maximum is 3 out of 5 seats; in practice the First Selectperson’s race (which counts towards that total but is a separate ballot section) frequently acts as a proxy for party control of the BOS, but interestingly this year, with no Democratic candidate for First and 2 Democrats running for regular BOS seats, we could end up with a 3-2 Democratic majority but a Republican First Selectperson.

    The BOF has the same rules as the BOE, so with 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat carrying over from the previous election, the Republicans are limited to a maximum of 2 but the Democrats can (and did) nominate candidates for all 3.

    P&Z has 9 seats and no party can hold more than 6; 5 of them are up this year, and each party is carrying over 2, so no party could have nominated more than 4, but the Republicans actually only nominated 3 and the Democrats nominated just 1, so not only are there no contested P&Z seats, but there’s an empty seat that currently has nobody from either party running for it. So if anybody (Republican or Democrat or unaffiliated, there’s no risk of you displacing anyone) is interested in planning and zoning and can get 51 other Wilton residents to endorse your candidacy, there’s a seat on that board with your name on it.

    1. Sorry, a correction, I was off about P&Z – mixed up 2021 and 2019, there are only 4 seats up this year and they all do have candidates running for them. (but all 4 are uncontested since there are only 4 total nominees)

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