Murphy visit lights fire under Dems

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, second from right, joins Wilton’s local candidates at the Democratic Town Committee campaign headquarters on Sept. 16. From left are Will Haskell, Ross Tartell, Stephanie Thomas, Murphy, and Doug Stern. — Jeannette Ross photo
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, second from right, joins Wilton’s local candidates at the Democratic Town Committee campaign headquarters on Sept. 16. From left are Will Haskell, Ross Tartell, Stephanie Thomas, Murphy, and Doug Stern. — Jeannette Ross photo

September’s been a big month for Wilton’s Democrats. Their annual barbecue drew a large crowd to hear candidates running for state and federal offices. They opened their campaign headquarters on Sept. 14. Then, on Sept. 16 U.S. Senator Chris Murphy stopped by to tout local Democratic candidates as part of his Fight Back CT campaign.

Speaking before a large crowd of Democrats who had returned to campaign headquarters on Route 7 after several hours of door knocking and phone calling, Murphy said Wilton’s local state races are “eminently winnable.”

He told his audience that after his election in 2012, he asked his campaign staff to drill down the return numbers town by town. They looked in particular for numbers of “persuadable voters,” those who have histories of splitting their ticket by voting for Democrats and Republicans. They found “at the very top of the list — in the top five towns by percentage of persuadable voters — was Wilton.

“There are plenty of people here who are thinking about the decision they are going to make and even those who voted Republican in the past … are watching what is happening right now in Washington and thinking that it’s time for them to change the way in which they go to the polls.”

The stakes are high, he said. “Nothing less than democracy is on the ballot.” He continued, saying the ideas of democracy — “the rule of law, the equality of humans, the belief in building a multi-cultural society with tolerance and inclusion at the center, these are radical, radical notions. There is no other country in the history of the world that has been able to combine those three things … it’s obvious it’s fragile. It should be self-apparent we have to fight for those things, that if we do nothing there will be attractive demagogues who come around and convince you there is a different way of doing things. Vesting power in one person is always more efficient than investing power in all of us.

“This is one of those moments,” he went on “to fight like heck on guns, the environment, and healthcare.”

Noting he is also on the ballot, he said nevertheless he is “deeply invested in these races because this moment calls for a team approach to resistance.” Murphy has been visiting other towns to support their candidates for state office as well.

Following Murphy, Wilton’s Ross Tartell, who is running for state representative in the 125th district, addressed the crowd. “I’ve never run for anything in my life. I’ve spent my life serving the community, but this was a time to step up. … The issues I hear about are the man in the White House, the fiscal issues in Connecticut, and people are really worried that our fiscal future in Connecticut is going to hurt our social background and the social issues and environmental issues that we face on a daily basis.”

Also running for state representative, in the 143rd district, is Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk. “My whole life has been about people,” she said, explaining she has worked in the nonprofit arena. “I believe in amplifying the voices of people and now it’s time to bring that to politics. We are all more alike than partisan politics would have us believe,” she said.

Doug Stern of Norwalk is running for the open seat of probate judge in the Norwalk-Wilton district. A member of the Norwalk Common Council, he said, “the act of service is so rewarding it’s hard to explain.” A probate judge has more direct contact with people than other elected positions. “You are looking into the eyes of the people, people who have gone through something stressful.”

State senate candidate Will Haskell was the last to speak, who Murphy said has a “value set and a moral compass that is rare, frankly, in somebody of his age and a willingness to work his tail off.”

Haskell has canvassed and  interned for Murphy on and off during the past six years. He recalled Murphy’s filibuster in the senate on gun legislation and used that as a jumping off point to say, “We in this community know what happens if guns fall into the wrong hands, the tragedy that can ensue.” He said his opponent, Sen. Toni Boucher, had expressed the opinion the legislature had gone too far in strengthening the state’s gun laws.

Murphy then went on to record endorsements for each of the candidates.

Voters are invited to meet three of the Democratic candidates — Haskell, Thomas and Tartell — for “coffee and conversation” on Thursday, Oct. 4, 10 to 11:30, at a private home in Wilton. RSVP to [email protected].

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