Wilton Democratic leader claims candidates given 'ultimatum' on topics for debate

Kim Healy

Kim Healy

Contributed Photo / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Selectwoman Kim Healy, the Republican candidate for the state's 42nd House District, is refuting claims that she is unwilling to debate abortion at an upcoming panel.

"Recently, my opponent and the Wilton Democratic Town Committee crafted and distributed social media advertisements stating that I would not engage in a public debate if Roe. vs. Wade was mentioned or asked about," Healy said in a statement. "That statement and the meme that was created with my picture is categorically untrue, and the false statement was made to presumably scare voters and to undermine my candidacy."

While a portion of those now-deleted posts on the Wilton DTC and Connecticut House Democrats Facebook pages allege that Healy was unwilling to debate the topic, the Democratic committee's vice chair also believes that Wilton's Republican Town Committee contacted the League of Women Voters looking to change debate topics.

DTC Chair Vicki Rossi said the Democrats received changes to the rules and the topics for the debate, saying the forum would only be about "state-focused topics." Rossi said she believes Republican candidates and the RTC chair insisted on rule changes as an "ultimatum."

The League of Women Voters released a statement of its own, saying the organization invited all four candidates, but one of them "sought significant material changes to that format before agreeing to participate, an ultimatum that was echoed by the other candidate from that party and their town party chair."

The LWV declined to provide the name of the candidate referenced in the statement and Healy denied that she requested any limitations.

"Any limitations to the debate topics are set by the Wilton League of Women Voters in their rules, not by candidates," Healy said in her retort to the advertisements. "I know during campaign seasons and elections, candidates and political groups may say things to defame others in an effort to gain an upper hand in a race or worse, to scare voters. When we bring down each other, we also bring down our entire community. It is important to state that I am not an individual who will ever shy away from hard conversations or issues that are important to our community."

And while Healy denies making any request to the League of Women Voters on topics, Republican Town Committee Chair Peter Wrampe called the RTC "bewildered" by the comments.

Wrampe said he wrote to the League of Women Voters in response to the organization's list of rules and regulations for the upcoming debate, and "respectfully requested" three items.

First, he said he requested there be a single debate lasting about 60 minutes, but no more than 75 minutes. Second, he said he asked that candidates for the state House and Senate be seated together on stage and receive the same questions. Third, he claims he requested the LWV appoint a third-party representative to join the review committee to vet the questions being asked of the candidates before the debate.

He maintains that he, nor any member of the RTC, to his knowledge, has obtained the topics of the debate and he has not made any requests to avoid or change any specific topic.

"No changes were requested," he said, adding that the accusations were "absolutely and utterly false."

Democratic State Sen. candidate Ceci Maher said she spoke to the LWV about the topics and was told abortion, among other topics, was not state-focused and therefore would not be included. Maher said she later received a letter from the LWV noting its change back to the original debate rules and topic format.

In its latest statement, LWV said the four candidates are now in agreement with the rules and format and are set to debate in the Brubeck Room of the Wilton Library at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25.

It also stated that "no questions will be screened out on any other basis — whether Wilton voters wish to ask about such matters as (to illustrate) regionalization, abortion, gun violence, or state education guidelines related to DEI, we are confident that each of you will be able to answer thoughtfully and constructively.”

Rossi said she and the DTC stand by the advertisements that were published.

Healy initially said she would file a complaint to Meta, Facebook's parent company, on the basis of spreading misinformation through the DTC advertisements. However the advertisements were taken down by the DTC. Rossi said the advertisements were initially scheduled for a limited run to end on the morning of Sept. 21, but were taken off a day early.

"The ads have raised the issue and were stopped on Tuesday," she said.

Democratic candidate for the 42nd Seat, Keith Denning, declined to comment.