Political parties line up slates

In Wilton’s last municipal election there was not a single contested race.

In Wilton’s last municipal election there was not a single contested race.
This year should be different. With Bill Brennan announcing he will retire at the end of his present term, there will be no incumbent running for first selectman, and, Paul Burnham, who heads the Democratic Town Committee’s nominating committee, said, “We may very well have candidates who will be challenging for seats the other party thinks of as theirs. We may well have an interesting campaign season in town.”
Both the Democrats and Republicans are wrapping up their candidate selection process and Burnham isn’t the only one who is optimistic.
“We’ve got a robust number of individuals we are interviewing and considering,” Al Alper, chair of the Republican Town Committee said earlier this month.
The election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 3, and there are seats open on the major boards — selectmen, finance and education — as well as the Board of Assessment Appeals, Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and constables. State law allows for minority representation meaning, in this case, the Democratic Party is guaranteed a number of seats, although Republicans hold the majority since there are more registered Republican voters than Democrats.
In Wilton, the Republicans and Democrats pick their candidates in different ways. The Democrats’ nominating committee was expected to present a slate to the town committee on June 23 and then will have a caucus July 22, but the Republicans will endorse their candidates at a regular meeting in July.
Burnham spoke with The Bulletin on June 12 and said, “We wish a few more people were coming forward, but we are very pleased with those who have come forward. They are extremely well qualified.” He added there were more qualified people for the Board of Education, but not as many for the Board of Finance.
“We look for someone who is very much committed to Wilton and the way of life we enjoy,” he said. “We don’t look for someone who has their own agenda.” He added the main criteria is “what is best for the town of Wilton,” not someone “who would be great for the party.”
On the Republican side, Alper said, “We don’t have a difficult time [finding candidates]. Each position has at least as many individuals wanting to serve as there are seats.”
In vetting candidates, he said the committee looks “to see if their experience speaks to the necessary background for that position.” In the case of someone wishing to serve on the Board of Finance, they look for people conversant with finance and financial statements, and if they have “the ability to find resolve in a position and can articulate how they got there.” Being able to work as part of a team is also important.
When asked why some past volunteers who might be qualified were not selected he said, “we have extraordinary people in town” and because of that “we have a tremendous bench to draw upon. The people who were selected had better qualifications.”
Brennan has said he was concerned the controversy surrounding the Miller-Driscoll renovation project — which has gotten caustic at times — would dissuade people from volunteering to serve. Neither Burnham nor Alper has seen much of that.
The number of Republican volunteers has been “at or higher than [the number] in the past,” Alper said.
Burnham said no one had specifically said they’d be interested but they were worried about being sued. “I haven’t seen a marked dropoff in the number of people who come to serve,” he said.
At its caucus, the Democratic Town Committee will present a slate of candidates to be ratified by the party’s “rank and file.”
The Republicans will meet in July to endorse their candidates. Only members of the town committee may put a name in and only committee members may vote. The RTC has 40 members.
If someone wishes to trigger a primary to run for a seat, they would need to register with the registrars of voters by the August deadline and the primary would take place in September.
If anyone is interested in volunteering for a position, Democrats should contact Paul Burnham at 203-762-9000 or at pburnham@gregoryandadams.com, and Republicans should contact Warren Serenbetz at 203-858-9970 or warrens@optonline.net.