The state’s top Democratic leaders, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, told a packed room at the Owenego Inn last night that this year people are paying attention to local elections.
“This is a local election, the first since Donald Trump won the presidency a year ago,” Murphy told the local Democratic Town Committee and more than 100 guests at its pre-election dinner last night at the Owenego Inn. And it may be a unique one. Voters, he said, “are angry about what’s happening at the national level and if you can get them to make that connection between their anger about what’s happening in Washington and their desire to be a part of the process and the solution locally,” then this election will be a game changer, he said.
Usually, he said, “it is hard to get people to vote in municipal elections. Usually one out of four eligible voters comes out. But this year people are paying attention.”
Murphy and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents the Third Congressional District, state Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., state Rep. Sean Scanlon, Selectman Jack Ahern, First Selectwoman candidate Lynda Mollow, and Tax Collector candidate Roberta Gill-Brooks all spoke. So did the State Democratic chairman Nick Balletto and Branford DTC chair Michael Leone.
DeLauro said what is unique about this year’s local election is that people are getting involved in local politics. “This is a big election for a lot of reasons. People have come out of the woodwork. People are energized. They want to engage and to be involved. We have to harness that energy. We have to make sure that people are voting on Tuesday. This is a bellwether election. I mean that. This will signal whether Democrats can win at the local level, and it is a signal for next year – at the state house for Sean (Scanlon) and for (Ted) Kennedy and with others to make sure we have a Democratic General Assembly. This will signal to people whether Democrats have been able to get a message across of who they are and what they stand for.
DeLauro told an audience of about 150 people that she represents 25 towns in her Third Congressional District. She won 24 of those towns last time. “One thing that is serious is that Donald Trump won 15 of the 25 towns in the Third District. People were sold a bill of goods. In my view, and I am sorry, the Democrats didn’t have an economic message to tell people how they were going to help them live their lives.”
DeLauro urged local Democrats to take 10 people out to vote. Polls open in the seven election districts throughout Branford on Tuesday at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Election Day Registration is On
As of this morning, there were 6,782 active Democrats in town, 3,644 Republicans, 9,514 Unaffiliated voters, and 181 “others” for a total of 20,121 registered voters.
Election Day registration is available at Town Hall (1019 Main St.) prior to 8 p.m. You will need a photo ID and proof of residence, such as a utility bill or a driver’s license. The hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is best to arrive at least a half hour before closing. If you are cleared and registered, you will vote at Town Hall.
This Election Day marks the fifth year that Connecticut voters may register on Election Day to vote even if you have not registered before. If you are a U.S. citizen who lives in Branford or just moved here and if you are 18 years old or older, you may go to the basement conference room in Town Hall (use the side door elevator) and register to vote.
Where to Vote
Voting locations are as follows:
First District: Branford High School – old gym, 185 Main St.
Second District: St. Therese’s Church Hall, 105 Leetes Island Road.
Third District: Orchard House Adult Day Care, 421 Shore Drive.
Fourth District: Fire Headquarters, 45 North Main St.
Fifth District: New Indian Neck School (Early Years Center), 12 Melrose Ave.
Sixth District: Mary T. Murphy School, 14 Brushy Plain Road.
Seventh District: Walsh Intermediate School, 185 Damascus Road.
Details at http://branford-ct.gov/Voter.
In the last weekend before Election Day, both parties were out campaigning and communicating.
The Dems mounted a heavy door-to-door and phone banking campaigns throughout Branford as they seek to win back Branford. Many volunteers are new to political campaigns, joining them, they said, in the aftermath of the Trump election. This election, including 30 seats for the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), might hold a wild card or two.
The Republicans mounted a phone campaign as well. They have also undertaken polls, including polling Democrats and asking who they were voting for, Cosgrove or Mollow. A robo call from Cosgrove on Sunday reminded voters that Election Day was Nov. 7 and asked them to vote Row B, the Republican line, “for the entire Cosgrove team.”
Democrats mounted a website ; Republicans did not.
Turning Branford Back to Blue
Branford Dems want to turn Branford back to blue, to the days before the 2013 election when they held Town Hall and the RTM. Republicans, they tell voters when they reach them by phone, control 91 out of the 169 Connecticut towns. Branford is now one of them.
Yet Branford, they tell would-be voters “has more Democrats than any other party in town and we’re hoping with your support this year, we can turn Branford blue.”
In 2013, not only did Republican Jamie Cosgrove win the race for first selectman, but that election flipped the Democratic majority in the Representative Town Meeting, 19-11, with Republicans gaining the same majority for themselves on the town’s legislative body. They have held that majority. The Dems are working to turn that around.
Both campaigns raised funds at various events, both from individuals and on the Republican side from advertisements, according to the State Election Enforcement Commission forms. As of their most recent filings of Oct. 30, each campaign brought in a little over $13,000 before expenses.
Mollow believes strongly that it is time to engage the public in town decisions before they are made. Mollow, 49, a nurse for 20 years and an education advocate, is seeking her first town-wide position. She is running with Jack Ahern, the incumbent Third Selectman, who served as Branford’s fire chief for many years.
Cosgrove, 44, has served four years as first selectman, and previously served two years as third selectman. He was also a former member of the RTM. He is a grandson of Dan Cosgrove, who was a former powerhouse in the Democratic and Taxpayer Parties and was known as the Boss of Bosses in his hometown.
Cosgrove, a Branford native, graduated from the University of New Haven with a degree in finance, and worked more than 20 years in the family business, Cosgrove Construction. The business is now closed.
Candidates for Selectman
The two selectman candidates both have long careers in the fire service, one in Branford, the other in New York City.
Incumbent Republican Joe Higgins, 72, retired from the New York City Fire Department in 2006, and later moved to Branford. He began his career in 1967, serving as a fire alarm dispatcher, deputy director of fire communications, and as fire commissioner liaison in Manhattan.
Ahern, 57, served 35 years with the Branford Fire Department, including 12 as chief. Ahern currently serves as Branford’s Assistant Emergency Management Director, and works as a manager at a private communications company.
Typically the first and second selectmen are members of the same party, but there is no state or local statute stipulating that scenario. The second and third selectmen seats go to whichever candidates have the second and third highest number of votes of all the candidates running for first selectman and selectman.
The statutes do not stipulate that the first and second selectman must be members of the same party.
Board of Ed Seats
This year there are four candidates running to fill three six-year terms on the Board of Education. Those three BOE seats go to the three highest vote-getters.
Those seeking six-year terms on the Democratic ticket are incumbent John Prins and Sarah Lockery, chief administrator at the Children’s Center of Hamden. Those running on the Republican ticket are incumbents Judy Hotz and Shannon L. Sharkey.
Other Town Offices
Besides the candidates for first selectmen and selectmen, as outlined above, other candidates are running for a variety of offices on Nov. 3.
Town Clerk: Maggie Bruno, who served for a decade on the Representative Town Meeting, is running on the Democratic line and incumbent Lisa E. Arpin is running on the Republican line.
Treasurer: Kurt Schwanfelder, who served for 23 years on the RTM as a Republican and held a seat on the Board of Finance, is now running on the Democratic line; and incumbent Michael T. Nardella, also a prior RTM member, is running on the Republican line.
Tax Collector: Incumbent Joanne P. Cleary retired this year. In the past she had been cross-endorsed by both the Democrats and Republicans. Seeking her seat is Roberta Gill-Brooks, a retired AT& T executive who is running on the Democratic line. She is running against Republican Sandra Krause, a businesswoman and a member of the Inland Wetlands Commisson. Each is running for elective office for the first time.
At the gathering last night at the Owengo, Gill-Brooks presented Cleary with a plaque honoring her work for Branford.
The Board of Assessment Appeals race has two newcomers on the Democrats’ side: Ali Abulugma, who served on the RTM for six years and is a member of Branford Water Pollution Control Commission for over a decade, and Rick Pittman, chief executive officer at Vantage Group in Wallingford. Pittman is seeking his first public office. Republican Dennis G. Nardella, current chair of the BOAA, is seeking another term.
Constables seeking election are Eunice Y. Lasala, Francis Walsh, Robert Dargan and Charles Tiernan, Democratic candidates; Robert J. Zettergren, Dennis G. Nardella, Kyle Nelson and Susan Cosgrove Barnes, Republican candidates.
All 30 RTM seats will be on the ballot and candidates will be identified according to each election district.