Local Republicans Dominate At The Polls, Hawley HVAC Breezes Through
Republicans regained seats — and in a number of races, took back majorities on local boards and commissions — after all the votes were counted November 2. And after more than 20 years of planning and false starts, Newtown voters endorsed an expansive renovation of the HVAC system at Hawley Elementary School by a wide margin.
Fewer than 35 out of 100 registered Newtown voters turned out to the polls on Election Day or filed absentee ballots in advance to seat dozens of public officials — many newcomers — who will lead the community over the next couple of years or more.
By the time polls closed, the registrars reported 6,717 registered residents or taxpayers qualified to vote on just the spending authorization for Hawley School had cast ballots, representing 34.68% of Newtown’s 19,371 eligible voters.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal clinched re-election with no opponent, albeit under a new national political affiliation with the SAM (Serve America Movement) Party, as did the two Board of Selectmen candidates, incumbent Democrat Maureen Crick Owen and newcomer GOP candidate Ed Schierloh.
Several other underticket positions were likewise filled by unopposed candidates, including three Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers slots, two on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and one Planning & Zoning Commission seat.
Several races featured candidates seeking to transition from other elected posts, with Board of Finance members Christopher Gardener and Matt Mihalcik picking up seats on the Legislative Council alongside current Selectman Jeff Capeci, who also won a council seat.
Current Board of Education Chair Michelle Embree Ku also ran for and won a council seat, while former school board chairman and current finance board Chairman Keith Alexander came up short in his race for a council seat in District 2.
Incumbent Town Clerk Debbie Halstead also won another term against current council member Jordana Bloom, who will be transitioning off the legislative panel along with fellow Democrats Alison Plante and Chris Smith.
And the Board of Education picked up three GOP members with Don Ramsey, Jennifer Larkin, and Janet Kuzma all winning seats.
The GOP View
Early in the evening, before results began coming in, Republicans were gathering as Fox News played quietly at the Newtown Community Center’s community room, which became an impromptu GOP Headquarters.
At 9 pm, Selectman Jeff Capeci announced, “We’ve got three Republicans on the Legislative Council,” which elicited an eruption of applause. Soon after, Republican Town Committee Chair Dennis Brestovansky told The Newtown Bee there was a “great turnout” at the gathering.
“We have a lot of committee members, friends, family, voters, and supporters with us here tonight,” he said. While he mentioned he would always like to see more voter turnout and hopes that one day there will be 100% voter turnout, he was encouraged to see that those who did vote were supporting many of the local Republican candidates.
For those who won, Brestovansky expressed his congratulations and said, “I think our candidates had a good campaign and communicated well. The candidates from the other side did as well. Some very unfortunate things in town took place, so it took courage and forthrightness to persevere through it… It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there [running].”
Throughout the night the crowd of candidates, supporters, and GOP faithful was in good spirits, which were intensified whenever Capeci made his way to the podium to add more votes to a marker board tracking each ballot line.
Barbara O’Connor has been on the Republican Town Committee since 1956, and was a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for 20 years. She told The Newtown Bee, “It’s good to see Republicans win this year.”
As the night wore on, children in attendance sat on the ground and looked up at the results coming in. When Capeci would add another number to the chart they would yell excitedly, “Something moved!”
When an unfavorable result popped up on the screen, a disappointed crowd rallied together and someone encouragingly said, “We still have District 2.”
Bill Brimmer told The Bee, “This group of candidates were in it all the way. It was a blessing for the town to see that… They were the hardest working group I’ve witnessed. They really wanted it and they acted on it.”
After 10:20 pm, votes were still coming in.
Seeing that so many Republicans were being voted in, Brestovansky said it looked like an unprecedented victory was in store for the local political party.
Separately, Legislative Council member Ryan Knapp commented, “This was a town effort,” to get these results.
As the crowd began to dwindle, those who remained saw First Selectman Dan Rosenthal arrive to visit and congratulate candidates. And following his arrival, State Representative Mitch Bolinsky made a speech saying, “Everyone in this room worked so hard.”
To the committee that selected the Republican candidates, he said, “Man, did you choose a bunch of winners.”
Democrats, with a slate of many new candidates, started the evening with hope and a feeling that they did everything they could to win, with Democratic Town Committee Chairman Eric Paradis, offering thanks to all who stepped up to run for wanting to “make the town a better place.”
“I can’t thank you enough for myself and for my kids,” said Paradis. “It’s people like you who make Newtown a better place for everyone.”
However, as numbers began trickling in over the course of the evening, the mood slowly turned somber and the atmosphere became quiet, with many looking on in stunned silence as the numbers were written on sheets for all to see.
As time wore on, an air of resignation about the reality of the situation started creeping in as many prepared themselves for a term where their opponents would hold majorities, and in some cases, supermajorities, on most town boards and commissions.
“I’m very happy with the results, as far as myself is concerned,” said Chris Gardner, who was among the few Democrats winning an open seat on the Legislative Council. “I’m disappointed that so many of my [fellow Democrats] will not have the opportunity to serve. I’ll work hard to represent Newtown and represent the people and work with my new Republican colleagues on the council.”
Legislative Council member Jordana Bloom, who challenged Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead instead of running for re-election, said she “tried really hard” and was “proud of the race we ran.”
“We did everything we could, but this was not our night,” Bloom said. “I wish everyone well.”
As the outcome became more solidified, Paradis was down but not out.
“We had a team of dedicated Newtowners who put themselves out there,” said Paradis. “I’m confident they’ll still do everything they can to make the town better.”
Democratic Town Committee member and Parks & Recreation Chairman Clinton DePaolo said that the Democrats had put a lot of work and a lot of investment of themselves into the campaign.
“When you put in so much investment and don’t win, it hurts,” DePaolo said.
At approximately 12:30 am Wednesday, registrars released results from the community’s three polling locations, and from absentee ballots that were collected up until the time polls officially closed at 8 pm.
According to the local registrars, local vote tallies are as follows — ** indicates the candidate was elected:
Ballot question authorizing Hawley School HVAC funding:
**Dan Rosenthal — SAM Party unopposed — 3,833
Board of Selectman:
**Ed Schierloh — (R) unopposed — 3,236
**Maureen Crick Owen — (D) unopposed — 3,234
Legislative Council District 1:
**Angela Curi (R) 1,151
Peter Schwarz (D) 1,041
**Lisa Kessler (R) 1,199
**Chris Gardner (D) 1,153
**William DeRosa (R) 1,174
Laura Main (D) 1,077
Legislative Council District 2:
**Ryan Knapp (R) incumbent 1,275
Robin Lynch (D) 1,034
**Matthew Mihalcik (R) 1,171
Keith Alexander (D) 1,081
**Charles Gardner (R) 1,156
**Dan Honan (D) incumbent 1,144
Legislative Council District 3:
**Philip Carroll (R) incumbent 1,196
Alison Plante (D) incumbent 946
**Jeffrey Capeci (R) 1,201
Chris Smith (D) incumbent 975
**Tom Long (R) 1,171
**Michelle Embree Ku (D) 1,008
**Debbie Aurelia Halstead (R) incumbent 3,900
Jordana Bloom (D) 2,738
Board of Finance:
**John Madzula II (R) incumbent 3,744
**Laura Miller (D) 3,112
**Geoffrey Dent (R) 3,621
John Fletcher (D) 3,074
**Steven Goodridge (R) 3,624
Ned Simpson (D) incumbent 3,082
**Chandravir Ahuja (R) 3,618
**Erica Sullivan (D) 3,182
Board of Education:
**Janet Kuzma (R) 3,638
Jennifer Padilla (D) 3,427
**Jennifer Larkin (R) 3,675
**Dan Cruson, Jr (D) incumbent 3,475
**Donald Ramsey (R) 3,990
**Scott Cicciari (R) incumbent 3,544
Philip Cruz (D) 3,236
**Brian Budd (R) 3,593
Planning and Zoning Commission (full term):
**Roy Meadows (R) incumbent 3,385
Don Mitchell (D) incumbent 3,014
**Gregory Rich (R) 3,290
Barbara Manville (D) incumbent 3,018
Planning and Zoning Commission (to fill a 2-year vacancy):
**Kersti Ferguson (R) unopposed 4,140
Planning and Zoning Commission alternates:
**Brian Leonardi (R) 3,480
**David Rosen (D) incumbent 3,219
**Connie Widmann (R) 3,787
Andrew Marone (D) incumbent 3,029
Zoning Board of Appeals:
**Rachel Rowan (R) 3,846
**Alan Clavette (D) incumbent 3,357
Zoning Board of Appeals Alternates:
**David Landau (R) 3,563
**Christina Paradis (D) incumbent 3,163
**Tiffany Hawley (R) 3,613
Joe Bojonowski (D) incumbent 3,050
Board of Assessment Appeals (full term):
**Kadri Graffeo (R) 3,280
Ed Randall (D) 3,118
Board of Assessment Appeals (to fill a 2-year vacancy):
**Scott Reiss (R) unopposed 4,171
Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers (full term):
**Marie Smith (R) incumbent 3,275
**Betsy Paynter (D) 3,161
Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers
(to fill a 2-year vacancy):
**Armel Kouassi (R) 4,198