Political parties poised to choose candidates for fall election
Updated 1:57 pm, Thursday, July 2, 2015
Even though there will be no “marquee” battle for the first selectman’s seat this fall, both of Westport’s major political parties are poised to select their candidate slates for other municipal seats in the electoral spotlight in November.
First Selectman Jim Marpe is at the midpoint of a four-year term in the town’s top job, but both his fellow Republicans and local Democrats plan nominating caucuses this month where contenders for positions on various town boards and commissions will be endorsed.
Since Westport only allows for a one-seat majority for a political party on any elected board, its nominating committee is interviewing potential candidates for the following seats: three for the Board of Finance and Board of Education; three for the Zoning Board of Appeals and two for the Assessment Appeals Board, Wetmore said.
All four Republican members of the Planning and Zoning Commission are seeking re-election, he added.
Wetmore said he sees his role as town committee chairman is “to find the best candidates possible and help them get elected. “As a committee, the RTC is always looking for better ways to reach voters and explain our goals for town government of fiscal responsibility and transparency.”
Wetmore said the committee is also committed to “preserving and building upon the town’s legacy in the arts and its natural beauty and character.” He said the local GOP also has a “deep commitment to our education system.”
He said the biggest challenge in the fall campaign is “reminding voters of all the positive things that have transpired the last few years under Republican leadership on the BOF, the P&Z and the Board of Selectmen.”
Democrats will caucus at 8 p.m. July 28 in Room 201 of Town Hall.
On the Board of Education there are three open positions, but the Democrats can run two because of that party’s current majority on the board, according to John Hartwell, the Democratic Town Committee chairman.
Those most likely on the Democrats’ school board slate are the two incumbents up for re-election — Michael Gordon, the board chairman, and Mark Matthias — Hartwell said. He added that anyone who would like to be considered for that position should contact him, since interviews by the nominating committee are continuing.
For the Board of Finance, there are three ballot positions, but Democrats can only run two.
On the Planning and Zoning Commission, none of the three Democrats are up for re-election and the party will be running only one candidate.
Hartwell said all four Republican members of the P&Z happen to be up for election because seats on that board used to be appointed, but when it was changed to an elected position, “somehow they screwed up the timing” for when the various board members’ terms expire.
With all three Democrats assured their spots on the commission, the DTC needs to have only one more elected to take over as the majority party on the P&Z..
“Right now the nominating committee is still meeting — they haven’t finished yet,” Hartwell said. The committee will come up with a list of recommendations that will be presented to the full DTC at the caucus.
He said the DTC will endorse a slate of candidates from that list.
“After that it’s still possible to petition and have the need for a primary,” he said. That’s if someone who wants to run for a particular position isn’t nominated by the party.
Hartwell said the job of the town committee is to “put forward the best people and get them elected.”
Most important, he said, is “can they do an excellent job for the town.”
As for the party’s platform in this election, that will come together once candidates are endorsed, he said.