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Council Candidate Breaks Ranks But Still Gets IPN Endorsement



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Council Candidate Breaks Ranks

But Still Gets IPN Endorsement

By John Voket

A local committee aspiring to become an official minor political party has dropped a petitioning candidate from its party line on the ballot.

But in a twist that has one registrar of voters scratching her head, the Independent Party of Newtown (IPN) is endorsing that candidate, Ruby Johnson, for a Legislative Council seat in November as an unaffiliated candidate. Ms Johnson formerly served on the council and numerous other appointed boards, and is a frequent letter writer to the newspaper as well as a fixture at numerous town meetings.

An IPN release sent to The Newtown Bee this week said Ms Johnson will run for a Legislative Council seat in District 3, but will not be included on the same line as the three recognized IPN Legislative Council candidates, Ann Ziluck, Brendan Duffy, and Bob Murray.

Ms Johnson was originally one of ten aspiring candidates included on an IPN verification form filed with the town clerk July 10. In a subsequent interview with The Bee, Ms Johnson said she would serve the fledgling political organization in any capacity the committee decided.

The only other name on that July 10 verification form that has not yet surfaced as a declared candidate is former Republican Town Committee chairman Charles Stofko. Mr Stofko, who apparently broke from the GOP to file for petitioning verification with the IPN, did not return phone calls requesting clarification on his status.

What makes the situation unusual, according to Democratic Registrar of Voters LeReine Frampton, is that the IPN committee is allowed to include up to four petitioning Legislative Council candidates on the District 3 ballot. But it appears the IPN will support three of its own contenders in addition to Ms Johnson, who will run on her own ballot line if her petition drive is successful.

The unusual arrangement was not mentioned in the release, which included praise for Ms Johnson from IPN council candidate and co-founder Gary Davis. This new committee is an extension of We Care About Newtown (WeCAN), an advocacy group, whose co-founders and affiliate supporters have spoken at various town meetings and submitted frequent letters to the editor.

“The Independent Party of Newtown believes that Ruby will be a tremendous addition to the Legislative Council,” Mr Davis said in his capacity as IPN spokesman. “Ruby has distinguished herself as an independent thinker with an exciting vision for our community that is similar to the vision of the Independent Party of Newtown.”

Mr Davis said in the release that the IPN will be making “further cross-endorsements during the course of the election campaign,” and his committee was honored to make Ms Johnson the first. This statement further confused the registrar because a cross-endorsement indicates the party in question will include the cross-endorsed candidate’s name on its own party ballot line, which does not appear to be the case in this instance.

Ms Frampton, who is among the town’s chief elections officials, said the important nuance between an endorsement and a cross-endorsement may have been misunderstood by the IPN leadership.

The IPN committee’s release stated Ms Johnson was thrilled to receive the Independent Party of Newtown’s endorsement, even though she decided not to run as a candidate with the forming party. The IPN cannot enjoy official minor party status until after its candidates qualify with a minimum number of votes for each office in the upcoming election November 6.

Once and if that minor party status is achieved, the party must field or cross-endorse candidates to fill each qualified position in subsequent elections in order to retain those ballot positions going forward.

A press release by Ms Johnson noted the IPN ballot positions for the council in District 3 were already filled with other aspiring candidates, which is technically at odds with information provided by the registrar.

“There are three great candidates running from the Independent Party of Newtown in District 3, so they didn’t need me on the ticket,” Ms Johnson said in the release.

During a follow-up interview with The Bee, Ms Johnson said she thought it was better to not affiliate with any party. She said her decision played into her desire to give the voters of Newtown a choice, noting that local political parties normally do not put up four candidates for council seats, even though they may be entitled to, because it would mean setting at least one up to lose.

“I’m excited about the prospects for these local elections,” Ms Johnson said in her release. “There’s a real energy in the air being provided by the formation of the new Independent Party of Newtown [committee]. I’ve decided I want to be part of this effort to take back our town from the entrenched special interests of the current administration and its disregard for the will of the people it is supposed to serve.”

Mattegat Qualifies

In other local political news, Town Clerk Cynthia Simon reported this week that petitioning First Selectman candidate Jay Mattegat has filed the necessary number of qualified petition signatures to secure a spot on the November ballot.

Mr Mattegat, who briefly served as an appointee on the Conservation Commission and volunteered as a medic truck driver assisting the local ambulance corps, said he was motivated to run as an unaffiliated candidate because he never wanted to see the local budget top $100 million.

“I’m frustrated with both parties from the top down, from Washington to Newtown, but here I can do something about it,” he said in a previous interview with The Bee. “Our taxes are so high our young people can’t afford to come home after college. And if they could afford to buy a home here, could they afford the taxes?”

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