GOP's Jacob, Chaudhary Qualify For Primary, Clarify Positions
Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob and Councilman Neil Chaudhary have filed more than enough qualified signatures of local Republicans to force a primary against endorsed GOP first selectman candidate and current Selectman Will Rodgers, and his selectman running mate Jeff Capeci.
After taking that definitive step toward what would be a rare occurrence in local politics, Ms Jacob sat withÃÂ The Newtown BeeÃÂ to discuss several issues she believes will be critical for voters to know - whether they are local Republicans planning to participate in that September 12 primary, or those heading out to the municipal election polls on November 7 if she and Mr Chaudhary are successful in the primary.
After presenting a social network post that Ms Jacob said circulated before the recent GOP caucus, during which she and her running mate were outpaced by endorsing votes for Mr Rodgers and Mr Capeci, she wanted to clarify her position on the issues of firearms safety and her role in a firearms ordinance that was introduced in August 2012 and approved in October 2013.
Ms Jacob said the post, which was circulated to followers of Shooters Pistol Range by retired owner and Newtown resident Dick Giannettino, contains misinformation. She said the post may have motivated a number of individuals to attend the GOP caucus to vote against her and her running mate.
While the post asserts that Ms Jacob "was the driving force behind the 2015 Town ordinance that effectively outlawed most, if not all, home shooting ranges in Newtown," a spokesman for Newtown Police Department said that many home shooting ranges in Newtown are lawfully and regularly permitted under the ordinance since it was enacted.
Ms Jacob, who is a firearms owner and whose husband is a former NRA member, also reminded residents that when a much more restrictive firearms ordinance was first requested by the local Police Commission, she voted against it as chair of the Ordinance Committee. She then helped craft the current version of that ordinance under then council Chairman Jeff Capeci, which permits many home ranges to operate today.
The social post by Mr Giannettino goes on to state that Ms Jacob "has aligned herself with Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety, the Newtown Action Alliance, Sandy Hook Promise, and Moms Demand Action, all anti gun organizations."
Ms Jacob countered that while she might have liked or commented on social posts related to all those causes, the only one she supports is Everytown for Gun Safety, which recently named her as a volunteer Fellow.
'Avid Hunters And Shooters'
"My family and my husband's family have always been avid hunters and shooters," she said. "And my family owns and keeps firearms. But we strongly support safe storage and criminal background checks for people wanting to buy guns. I also believe doctors should be permitted to talk about safe gun storage as a safety measure, just like fences around swimming pools and wearing bike helmets."
Ms Jacob said in her capacity with the Bloomberg group, she also lectures to doctors, at hospitals, and to municipal leaders about the costs related to gun violence. As the former ordinance chair, she said the current firearms ordinance "sets out common sense measures while respecting Newtown's rural to suburban build-out - and also respects local fishing and hunting clubs who all manage shooting ranges with appropriate safety."
She also added that Mr Capeci supported the current ordinance as then-chair of the council. Turning to another more recent post from Mr Capeci and Mr Rodgers asking fellow Republicans to "respectfully decline" to sign her and Mr Chaudhary's petition to force a primary, Ms Jacob cited the ease at which she was able to amass the necessary supporters.
"In the June 20th issue ofÃÂ The Bee, Mr Rogers talked about the caucus as the first part of the exercise, saying that while Republicans have a right to participate in the caucus, he'd rather a venue that experience dictates more Republicans tend to participate in [and] they would not rule out a primary run if they didn't prevail," Ms Jacob said. "Fast forward to [yesterday's social post] when he encouraged people not to sign our petition because he says voters were already afforded a forum and a choice."
Ms Jacob said she and Mr Chaudhary believe in "being as inclusive as possible and are grateful so many voters have agreed, allowing us to hand in the required signatures a week sooner than required." Ms Jacob admitted that her opponent "is right, it is not an easy task but our team was ready and able to meet the challenge and engaging with voters is what we do best."
Council Business Prioritized
Ms Jacob said leading up to the primary on September 12, she and Mr Chaudhary would not permit campaigning to interfere with their important work on the council.
"Thanks to that work, Newtown is largely insulated from the [most recent] reductions proposed by the governor," she said, adding that the council proposed a budget that the voters approved, and that put aside $3 million to hedge against expected reductions in state funding.
"Their team talks about this issue and its importance, while we have done the work and will continue to do the work needed to be done as representatives of the people of Newtown," she said. "At the April 3 [selectmen's] meeting, Mr Rogers criticized the council for this work stating that it was 'unwise of the council to anticipate lower state revenues,' and that we should have 'gone through the normal budget process instead of anticipating a decrease in revenue,'" and that officials "'could adjust the mill rate or reopen the budget down the line.'"
Ms Jacob said that she and Mr Chaudhary "believe voters want to understand what the budget will cost them and going back to the voters with a supplemental bill is absolutely the wrong thing to do."
In her capacity as current council chair, Ms Jacob said she will not support the approval of "any further spending on yet-to-be-approved capital projects until we have an approved [state] budget." And if there is a local budget surplus, she will initiate deliberation at the council level about "how to best use that money to continue to protect the citizens of Newtown from any exposure due to reduced revenue from the state."
In closing, Ms Jacob said she believes Newtown needs the kind of experienced team that she and Mr Chaudhary could deliver, and that she hopes "every Republican voter shows up to let their voice be heard in the primary." She said by endorsing her and her running mate in the primary, "Newtown Republicans will have the best chance to retain GOP leadership on the Board of Selectmen for the next two years."