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Over 300 Pack GOP Caucus, Primaries Promised In Three Races

Published: July 25, 2017 at 12:00 am


This report was updated verifying the number of qualified and registered GOP attendees to the caucus incorrectly supplied to The Bee in the original on-line version.

Nearly 350 local Republicans and nonvoting family members jammed the gym at Edmond Town Hall Monday, July 24, to formally endorse a slate of officials and other candidates for local elected office this fall.

But anomalous competition for the offices of First Selectman, Board of Selectmen, and Town Clerk will result in local Republicans being called to the polls for a September 12 primary, before a final GOP ticket is ratified for the general election in November.

After up to 309 qualified Republicans queued up as many as three times to cast paper ballots for the contested races, it turned out the party-endorsed candidates emerged on top.

Caucus voting for first selectman ratified party-endorsed current Selectman and former Legislative Council Chairman Will Rodgers with 159 votes, outpacing first selectman contender and current council Chair Mary Ann Jacob, who received 129 votes, and current school board member and first selectman hopeful Andrew Clure, who received 11 votes.

Former council Chairman and Mr Rodgers' running mate for selectman Jeff Capeci captured 151 votes, against current Councilman and Board of Selectman contender Neil Chaudhary, who received 110 votes. Mr Clure has yet to declare a running mate.

In a surprise bid against endorsed incumbent Republican Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead, town Social Services Director and former town clerk's office staffer Ann LoBosco narrowly lost in caucus balloting with 91 votes against Ms Aurelia Halstead's 97. Following the caucus, Ms LoBosco told The Newtown Bee she would be filing the necessary paperwork and gathering signatures to force a GOP primary against Ms Aurelia Halstead.

Mr Rodgers, who was formally nominated by Jane Sharpe, and seconded by Councilman Phil Carroll, issued the following statement after accepting the nomination: "Jeff and I were very impressed by the turnout at the caucus. We compliment all attendees because caucuses can be cumbersome and even intimidating at times.

"The event was well run and we also thank those that organized, processed, and moderated," Mr Rodgers continued. "It speaks well to the vitality of the party as we move forward through the election cycle."

In closing, he said, "We promise to use the outcome to build upon momentum and will continue to work hard to justify the faith our present supporters exhibited and to gain new supporters as well. Expect great things to follow."

Ms Jacob, who was nominated by Kathy Hamilton, told The Newtown Bee, "Neil and I were pleased at the support we received, and we believe we are the right team with the right message that can win in November."

Ms Jacob said she and Mr Chaudhary will continue to pursue their election goals "because the Newtown community deserves a voice in the primary. Despite all our work to bring supporters to the caucus, we think there are a lot of people in the community who still didn't understand how that process works."

Ms Jacob said she and her running mate will continue reaching out in the hope of appealing to, and inspiring, not only more of the 5,000-plus registered Republicans in town to turn out September 12, but will also appeal to thousands of other nonregistered and unaffiliated voters who want to support their platform to consider registering as Republicans in order to participate in the primary.

"We actually saw a number of unaffiliated voters who changed their party before the deadline, who turned out for the caucus," Ms Jacob observed. "Like with a referendum, getting Yes votes out is a challenge - and coming out for a process like the caucus is much more difficult for some than a primary or other election where polls are open from 6 am to 8 pm. I think we need to respect the fact that there are a lot more people who want to get involved, and we encourage them to do so."

Mr Clure, who was nominated by his wife, Lori, and seconded by Robert Craybas, had scheduled an official primary campaign kickoff for July 25, less than 24 hours after the GOP caucus adjourned.

After the caucus, he told The Newtown Bee, "I was very happy to have the opportunity to participate. Over 300 people filled the room and not many were surprised at the outcome."

"For me, it was a chance to greet some old friends, shake hands with new ones, and publicly address the crowd so they can get to know more about me," Mr Clure continued. "I am very appreciative to my wife, Lori, and my good friend, Bob Craybas, for their sincere nominating speeches last night.

"Now the path to the primary begins and my supporters and I hit the ground running first thing [in the] morning. We are energized and ready to continue to be out in Newtown, meeting people, talking about what I stand for, and getting signatures so my name is on the primary ballot in September," he concluded. "I encourage people to follow my Facebook group, Andrew Clure for First Selectman of Newtown 2017, for news about my campaign."


Selectmen And Town Clerk

Following his nomination, Mr Capeci remarked, "Will and I recognize the large issue in this town involving taxes," and indicated that the state is "imposing obligations on us that we were not a part of when those obligations were made."

Mr Capeci said if he and Mr Rodgers are successful in November, they would immediately begin working to diversify Newtown's commercial tax base to offset reductions in state grants as well as private property taxation on local homeowners.

Mr Chaudhary cast himself as the most likely candidate who could help retain a Republican majority on the Board of Selectmen, reminding caucus-goers that he served two terms as Legislative Council vice chair.

He said as chair of the council's Education Committee, he has been involved in school district contract negotiations, and as a member of the Ordinance Committee, he took the lead "on the first major revisions to local senior tax relief ordinance, paving the way for making Newtown's the most generous in the state."

In accepting the GOP endorsement for town clerk, Ms Aurelia Halstead said she has worked hard for more than a decade in her position, serving local residents while attaining the state's highest official designation of master municipal clerk.

"I appreciate your confidence in me, and I will always look out for the best interests of all Newtown residents both personally and professionally," she said.

Ms LoBosco also thanked her supporters, stating that if elected she would pursue expanding office hours to early morning and later in the evening, initiate the ability for visitors to pay fees by debit and credit card, and would reinstitute issuing hunting and fishing licenses, as well as transfer station permits, from the office, all to enhance resident convenience.

"I will be a hands-on town clerk, and more importantly, will be available to the public," Ms LoBosco said.


Uncontested Slate

The caucus was structured in a way by moderator Robert Hall so that uncontested offices could be ratified while registrar and party volunteers tallied paper ballots from the contested races. The GOP rounded out its slate for the November ballot announcing the following candidates:

Council District 1 - Joseph Girgasky, George Guidera, and Jay Mattegat

Council District 2 - Incumbents Ryan Knapp, Daniel Wiedemann, and Matthew Mihalcik

Council District 3 - Incumbent Phil Carroll, Rance Thompson, and Donald Morrissey, Jr

Board of Finance - Incumbents Mark Boland and Sandy Roussas, Armel Kouassi, and Robert Licata

Board of Education - Incumbent Daniel Cruson, Jr, Daniel Delia, and Deborra Zukowski

Board of Assessment Appeals - Incumbent Marianne Brown

Planning & Zoning - Incumbent Frank Corrigliano

P&Z Alternates - Incumbents Fredrick Taylor and Roy Meadows

Zoning Board of Appeals - Incumbents Barbara O'Connor and Stephen Singlak; also Jane Sharpe to fill open vacancy

ZBA Alternates - Charles Gardner and Robin Buchanan

Police Commission - Scott Ciccari and David Ruhs

Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers - Incumbent Jen Chaudhary

Unaffiliated and residents currently not registered to vote may register to participate in the GOP primary on or before September 11.

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This Week's Poll

Toilet Paper: Under (opening under/against the wall) or Over (opening over/away from the wall)?

67% (2 votes)
33% (1 vote)
Total votes: 3