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GOP formally backs Marpe, Kaner to lead fall campaign

Published 6:06 am, Wednesday, July 17, 2013

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  • Jim Marpe, left and Avi Kaner share congratulations Tuesday night as the Republican Town Committee unanimously endorsed them to run for first selectman and selectman, respectively, this November. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 7/16/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Jim Marpe, left and Avi Kaner share congratulations Tuesday night as the Republican Town Committee unanimously endorsed them to run for first selectman and selectman, respectively, this November. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 7/16/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Jim Marpe, the former Board of Education member who for months has been local Republicans' all-but-official nominee for first selectman this year, on Tuesday got the party's formal and unanimous backing to run for the town's top job in November.

And he hit the ground running.

"We're halfway to our goal for fundraising," Marpe told the Republican Town Committee's nominating session Tuesday night. "That's unheard of for a campaign at this stage."

He and running mate Avi Kaner, the Board of Finance chairman and newly endorsed selectman candidate, were recommended in April by a GOP candidate search committee to lead the party's ticket in the November municipal election.

The race for the Westport first selectman's seat is open this year, with First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, a Democrat, deciding not to seek election to a third term.

The GOP is expected to be challenged by the Democrats' team of Helen Garten, a Board of Finance member, and Melissa Kane, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 3, who are expected to be endorsed at their party's Thursday nominating meeting.

The RTC on Tuesday also nominated two current Board of Education members for re-election, Michael McGovern and Jeannie Smith.

Another school board member, Jennifer Tooker, will make a run for a seat on the Board of Finance.

A 24-year Westport resident, Marpe served eight years on the Board of Education, and briefly as the interim chairman before stepping down early this year to focus on his first selectman campaign. A retired senior partner with a global management consulting and computer technology services company called Accenture, he and his wife Mary Ellen are the parents of one daughter.

"I am grateful for all your collective support," Marpe told the RTC. "Many of you have already contributed your time," as well as donated to the campaign.

"This is about electing our entire slate," he said, noting the importance of maintaining a Republican majority on the finance board. "This is what's going to help Avi and I have a successful run for four years, and maybe eight years."

"The great news is we have momentum on our side," he said of his campaign, having worked for the past six months to put the "necessary infrastructure" in place.

He said the GOP team plans to mix both traditional and new approaches in their outreach to voters, including social media, targeted messaging, and meet-and-greets.

"Because of the arithmetic of Westport voter registration, we can't afford to lose a single vote," Marpe said. Democrats have for years held the edge in local voter registration over Republicans -- statistics before the 2012 election showed 6,389 registered Democrats, 4,951 registered Republicans and 6,583 voters who were unaffiliated.

"We need to get our Republican base out to vote," he said. "There are many Democrats who've expressed their support for us."

Kaner, who owns a New York City supermarket chain, and has served on the finance board for eight years, said there are 2,000 unaffiliated voters in Westport "who have a history of voting."

He said he and Marpe have an important message to share, which centers on fiscal responsibility, and that they need the RTC's help in getting the word out.

"I really look forward to serving with Jim Marpe," he said.

"Jim has proved that he can work with both sides of the aisle (and) sort out all the differences that sometimes exist," said Jo Fuchs, former state representative, in her speech nominating Marpe for endorsement as the first selectman candidate.

"It doesn't take too long to really realize the natural born leader that Jim is," Tooker said, noting his ability to create an atmosphere "where constructive conversation can occur."

In nominating Kaner, Marpe said that as finance board chairman he had brought "long-needed reform to the town."

"He has demonstrated that he can accomplish his vision," he said.

"Together we will work to make Westport one of the best towns in America," Marpe said. "One of the best places to live, and at a cost that Westporters can afford."

The race for the Westport first selectman's seat is open this year, with First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, a Democrat, deciding not to seek election to a third term.