GMW EXCLUSIVE: Wilton Dems Likely to Challenge Vanderslice, Make Other Big Campaign Moves
Wilton Democrats will hold their caucus on Tuesday evening, July 16, to officially endorse candidates for this fall’s municipal Election2019. But GOOD Morning Wilton has learned the Wilton Democratic Town Committee (DTC) is planning to make some very forward moves with who they will likely nominate, and for which elected positions–including challenging Lynne Vanderslice for first selectman.
While DTC officials would not confirm this on the record, GMW has heard from multiple sources close to the DTC that Deb McFadden is most likely going to run again for Wilton’s top elected office, in a repeat of the first selectman race in 2015. That year, McFadden and Vanderslice faced off, with the Republican Town Committee‘s (RTC) candidate Vanderslice winning the office. McFadden handily won a spot on the Board of Selectmen two years later as the top vote getter in the 2017 municipal race.
GMW spoke with both McFadden and DTC chair Tom Dubin, and while neither would confirm that McFadden would enter the race, both suggested Wilton voters pay close attention to what happens Tuesday night. “Please attend the caucus on Tuesday,” was all McFadden would initially say.
When pushed for clarification, she did admit that the thought of getting in the race is front and center on her mind–especially now that another candidate has already said he plans on challenging Vanderslice as well–GOOD Morning Wilton broke the news last month that Michael Richard Powers is seeking the RTC endorsement to run for first selectman, and will possibly run as an unaffiliated candidate if he doesn’t get the official nod.
“I was asked earlier in the year to run for first [selectman]. I declined, because I was focused on [my husband’s] health. His health issues have been resolved. I can tell you that the party has continued to twist my arm. They have been more aggressive after Powers announced his run for first selectman to challenge for the GOP nomination,” McFadden told GMW.
She does sound like someone seriously considering a jump into the race.
“I have spent more time very recently thinking about it. Whereas, initially, I had no intention of running. If this had been a planned thing, I would have started months ago,” she says. But now that there are multiple candidates in the race for first selectman?
“It gives me additional pause to take a closer look at the opportunity,” McFadden hints.
As for what she thinks of Powers, all McFadden would say is, “I don’t know him.” But Vanderslice is a more familiar possible opponent, given that the two currently serve on the Board of Selectmen. McFadden wouldn’t comment on what she thinks of challenging Vanderslice.
We asked Vanderslice what she thought about a possible challenge from McFadden; she repeated the same comment she made at the news about Powers running: “I am confident residents support my administration’s thoughtful and pragmatic leadership, which has resulted in reduced costs, a more responsive government, quality of life improvements, and an increase in economic investment,” Vanderslice said.
Other Possible DTC Candidates,
The DTC is considering several high profile challenges for open spots on the Boards and Commissions this November. Dubin has expressed his excitement in the last few weeks about the number and quality of candidates his party is considering. However, he was reluctant to comment on any specific names before Tuesday evening’s meeting. “People are aware of it, and I’m hoping for a good turnout. I think the story will happen on Tuesday,” he said.
With several candidates in the running, the challenges will make for a very exciting election season.
GOOD Morning Wilton has been told by multiple people close to the DTC that Ceci Maher–currently a member of the Board of Finance–is planning on running for the Board of Selectmen. Maher was appointed to fill a seat on the BOF this past year, and would have to run for the seat if she wanted to remain on the BOF after Nov. 30. She can only run for one position at a time. Maher did not return a request for comment by press time.
Maher previously sought a spot on the BOS when the DTC placed her name into consideration for an appointment after Michael Kaelin stepped down. The BOS chose Josh Cole to fill the seat instead. Cole will have to run in November if he decides to try to keep the seat.
The other Democrat on the BOF is John Kalamarides. GMW has also been told that Kalamarides, who would be up for re-election in November, does not intend to run again. If so, that would leave open the only two spots formerly held by Democrats on the Finance Board.
Other familiar Democratic names that have been mentioned as possible candidates–it’s still up in the air as to which races they may enter–are Kaelin and Ross Tartell. Kaelin previously served as a selectman, and was a registered Republican when he was elected to that seat–but stepped down after giving up his political affiliation, before joining the Democratic party. Tartell ran a competitive race for State Representative in 2018, earning more Wilton votes than the Republican incumbent Tom O’Dea but ultimately losing the seat thanks to New Canaan voters putting O’Dea over the top.
The party is rumored to be considering running multiple candidates for the major boards, including Selectmen, Finance and Board of Education. With two Democrats (Deborah Low and Gretchen Jeanes) currently on the BOE who don’t have to run this November, and only one Republican (Glenn Hemmerle) who is keeping his seat, the Democrats could make stronger challenges than just seeking minority representation on several boards.
The Democratic party in Wilton has grown in strength over the last several years, especially following the 2016 president election. What once was a very wide gap between numbers of registered Republicans vs. Democrats has narrowed in recent years; unaffiliated voters is still the dominant party in town, but the slimmer margin has made challenges from DTC candidates much more viable.
That is something McFadden would say on the record: “I think we’re going to be putting up a really strong fight this year because people are so energized after our 2017 victory. I think they’re going to be pushing hard to gain more ground in 2019.”