With a quick, silent and unexpected shuffle, the Wilton Republican Town Committee swapped two candidates in two separate races for the Board of Education. The spots on the ticket were switched a month after they were endorsed — without making it widely known to Wilton voters.

In the upcoming municipal election on Nov. 7, Wilton voters will have two separate BOE races to consider: in one, there are three open seats for four-year terms; in the other, there is one two-year term up for grabs. Candidates on the ballot running for the BOE run in one race only, not both.

The Announced Endorsements

Heather Priest and Annie Chochos were two of the four people in total who were endorsed as the RTC’s Board of Education candidates, alongside Republican candidates Lori Bufano and Mark Shaner.

Their nominations were announced publicly in a press release issued by the RTC on July 26. That press release didn’t indicate which of the four would run for the two-year seat.

GOOD Morning Wilton had a reporter at the meeting when endorsements were made and published a story on the slate that same day. Again, there was no indication who would run for which seats.

To clarify which of their candidates would run for the two-year term, GMW emailed RTC Chair Peter Wrampe on Aug. 3; Wrampe responded that same day identifying Chochos as the candidate the party would run for the two-year seat. Priest, Bufano and Shaner would run for the four-year terms.

Since then, GMW has reported that information in two separate stories, on Aug. 3 and Aug. 11.

The Unpublicized Switch

On Aug. 22, Wilton’s town clerk Lori Kaback received signed form-letter withdrawals from both Priest and Chochos for their respective races.

Along with the withdrawals, an endorsement signed by RTC Chair Wrampe was also filed with the town clerk specifying that Chochos was now one of the three candidates running for a full term on the board, while Priest would now be running for the two-year transitional term against unaffiliated candidate Sara Sclafani.

In the month since filing the change to its slate, the RTC didn’t not make an announcement, issue a press release, or contact GMW to report the candidate switch. Neither the RTC website nor Facebook page made note of the change.

“We deemed it in the best interest of our candidates and our ticket,” Wrampe said briefly when contacted by phone Monday morning (Sept. 18) and asked why the swap was made. “I just want to leave it at that.”

Asked why there had been no notice given publicly about the switch, he said, “We didn’t see any need for that.”

Asked whether the change related to the skills or strengths of either candidate, Wrampe said, “No comment.”

Priest herself did not respond to two inquiries for comment.

Chochos, however, expressed confidence in her party.

“The campaign committee made this decision,” she said, “and Heather and I fully support it.”

Asked about the reasoning behind the decision, Chochos referred further comment to Wrampe.

“The decision was at Peter’s level and he is, therefore, the best person to ask,” she said.

While by phone Wrampe offered a “No comment” statement on whether it was important for the public to have learned in advance exactly who was running for which seats on the ticket and when that choice was made, he later forwarded some additional thoughts via email regarding the change itself.

“The change was made officially on August 22nd, just as our Row B candidates began their campaigns based on input from many members of the RTC and with the candidates’ backing,” he said. “Every year both Democrats and Republicans slot candidates based on any number of factors, which is what we did here, and our candidates have been talking to voters ever since.”

Sclafani, the unaffiliated candidate who will now face Priest in the run for the two-year seat, gave her reaction about hearing the news.

“I was not notified of any change to the Republican Town Committee slate. Transparency is one of the qualities that I value most, and while I cannot speak to anyone else’s political motivations, I have made clear from the very beginning that I have no personal agenda. I am in this race because I want to keep politics out of education and do what is best for our schools and our children,” Sclafani said.

Tom Dubin, chair of the Democratic Town Committee, was also asked to comment on the switch.

“We have no insight into why the RTC quietly shifted Heather Priest to run for the two-year position,” he said. “Perhaps they felt she’ll have a better chance of winning against independent candidate Sara Sclafani.”

UPDATE: Priest reached out to GMW on Tuesday afternoon to offer a comment: “The BOE/RTC team thought it would be a better fit for Annie and I to switch the two- and four-year seats. From my perspective it didn’t matter either way, I am just excited to run and hoping to provide as much value to the BOE as I can, if elected. I have been sharing with people as I discuss my campaign and didn’t think I needed to make an announcement. Thanks for reaching out.

Join the Conversation


  1. While I don’t doubt that they were surprised and dismayed to see a strong candidate like Sara in that slot, I also wonder whether any ethics concerns relating to Ms. Priest being married to a current WPS faculty member made them want to put her in the shorter-term seat; the only employment contract up for renewal between now and 2025 is the one for administrators, and while even that seems ethically problematic (you don’t really want someone’s spouse in a position to vote on their boss’s salary), perhaps the RTC felt like they could sneak her in with less controversy if her term did not actually overlap with the renewal of her husband’s contract.

    (but my understanding is that one of their 4-year candidates – if I remember correctly it’s Mr. Shaner – is also married to a WPS teacher, so it could be that they simply don’t care)

    1. Ridiculous article and even sillier response. To suggest anything nefarious is happening is laughable. The town should be happy to have such quality people stepping forth to take on these important roles.

      1. You don’t think there’s anything suspicious about the fact that the Republicans have nominated multiple candidates who are married to WPS faculty members? Seems like a huge red flag to me – personally I’m led to wonder whether they’re hedging against the possibility of losing the Board of Finance by trying to sabotage the school budget process from the Board of Education side instead.

  2. The BOE has long been a simple rubber stamp for the superintendent of schools. IMO, candidates should be far more independent in their efforts. They should not have children in the sc, should not be the spouse of a school employee and importantly have certification and experience in financial management. Only then can the BOE Challenge excessive school spending habits.

  3. I agree with Tom’s statement. Tempest in a teapot. When I talk to people about local, even state-level elections, their eyes glaze over. Lots of voters don’t even know who their State Senators or State Reps are, never mind BoS and BoE people. A minor switch like this isn’t even news. The only part of this worth reporting is the lack of responses and “no comment” remarks — both are entirely out of place in a democracy. Political parties, candidates (and corporations) have an obligation to respond, meaningfully, to established press outlets.

    1. Your comment demonstrates exactly why we need quality local news outlets like Good Morning Wilton – to inform people about and get them interested in these races. Even if there isn’t anything nefarious behind it, it’s a significant change and worth digging into, and we’re uniquely blessed in Wilton to have an outlet that does cover this stuff.

  4. Great example of a nothingburger and more representative of the political leanings of this publication than any scandal.

    What really needs to be investigated is how any article about the schools is automatically published with Michael Love’s musings at the very top of the comments section? How is he able to do this while the rest of us mere mortals have to wait? Enquiring minds want to know!

    1. I usually read GMW in the morning while I’m drinking my coffee and post comments then. If you want to be on top, you need to comment faster.

      But the timestamps reflect when the comment was submitted, not when it was approved – frequently there’ll be no visible comments on an article for most of a day and then a bunch of them are approved that evening. (presumably because Heather et al have better things to do with their time than instantly vetting our assorted ramblings)

  5. Whether or not the switch of the candidates was irrelevant to the RTC, the Committee’s failure to bring this to the voters’ attention was misguided. Each of our votes is due the most fundamental respect of notification of who is running, or the RTC should not be mounting a slate or asking residents to make the effort to come to the polls. Terming this “[not] any need,” “tempest in a teapot,” and “minor switch like this” clearly reflects the importance and deference that the RTC and commentators accord these races, the opposing candidate, the Town staff, the voting public, and the two candidates themselves – none. Commentators who now scold the press for bringing this to the attention of the public should instead be embarrassed that the RTC didn’t.

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