Westport voters turned out at normal rates
WESTPORT — Pat Ducy only moved to town a year ago, but when Election Day came around, he felt he should do his civic duty.
“It was my first chance to vote in a municipal election here, so I said, ‘Why not?’ ” Ducy said outside of Long Lots Elementary School gymnasium around 1p.m. Tuesday, where voting districts six and seven vote.
Ducy was among 1,871 voters who turned up at Long Lots over the course of the day, and among 8,502 voters who came out across the town’s nine districts, according to unofficial numbers from the office of the registrar of voters.
The voters choose to re-elect Republican First Selectman Jim Marpe on Tuesday along with a slew of new members to the Board of Selectmen, the boards of Finance and Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Representative Town Meeting and others.
Total voter turnout was on par at 47 percent of registered voters, according to Town Clerk Patricia Strauss, with other municipal elections in which the first selectman is on the ballot. In 2015, the last municipal election, 6,082 of 15,709 voters turned out, or 38 percent, by the close of polls. In 2013, the last time first selectman was on the ticket, 7,961 voted of the 16,994 registered in town, 46 percent.
In 2013, Republican incumbent Jim Marpe was elected to his first term. This year, he was challenged by Democrat Melissa Kane and petitioning candidates John Suggs and Timothy J. Elgin.
Turnout in national elections is generally much higher. In 2016, 15,890 of 18,499 registered voters went to the polls to vote for president.
Around the town’s polling places — Town Hall, Coleytown Middle School, Saugatuck Elementary School, Greens Farms Elementary School and Long Lots Elementary School — candidates were seen throughout the day.
Marpe visited all five of the town’s polling locations and said, before his victory was announced, “I’m feeling great. There seems to be a great turnout in voters, which is always a great thing. It’s good to see Westport residents engaged in the voting process in an enthusiastic and informed way and to see candidates participating at the polling places.”
Vote totals in Westport
(D) Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer, 3,735
(R) Jim Marpe and Jennifer Tooker, 4,187*
(Pet) John F. Suggs, 430
(Pet) Timothy J. Elgin, 28
Board of Finance
(D) Lee Caney, 4,368*
(D) Brian E. Stern, 4,552*
(R) Andrea Lawrence Moore, 4,402*
(R) Vik Muktavaram, 4,128
Board of Education
(D) Candi Savin, 4,758*
(D) Elaine Whitney, 5,018*
(R) Karen Kleine, 4,288*
(R) Jeannie Smith, 4,188*
Board of Assessment
(D) Elaine Arnow, 5,019*
(R) Joseph Sledge, 3,807*
Planning and Zoning
(D) Greg Rutstein, 3,660*
(D) Michael Cammeyer, 3,787*
(D) Danielle Dobin, 3,826*
(R) Jon Olefson, 3,178
Jennifer Johnson, 2,261
Greg Rutstein, 730*
Michael Cammeyer, 821*
Danielle Dobin, 845*
Zoning Board of Appeals
(D) Bernard Deverin, 4,304*
(D) Victoria Gouletas, 4,425*
(R) Thomas Hood, 3,555
At 1 p.m. at Long Lots, Democratic Committee Chairman Ellen Lautenberg was there in winter jacket, scarf and gloves since 10 a.m. holding the sign for Democratic first and second selectmen candidates Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer. Robert Harrington, of the School Budget Petition Campaign was holding a sign with reading the “Golden Ticket” — candidates from varying parties that he said support Westport Public Schools.
Petitioning candidate John Suggs — who, like Democrat Melissa Kane and petitioning candidate Timothy J. Elgin, lost to Marpe — turned up at Long Lots, the last of his stops at Westport’s five polling locations.
“It seems like it’s been a good turnout,” Suggs said. “It’s a nice day for people to come out and vote.”
First-time District 2 RTM candidate Christine Meiers Schatz was campaigning outside Saugatuck and said she was running, in part, because “It’s important to see people fail. I want my kids to see Mommy out there trying and to know that even if it doesn’t work out, it’s OK.”
Election morning began on a contentious note when Megan Rutstein came to vote in Town Hall and noticed her husband’s signs were missing.
Rutstein’s husband, Greg Rutstein, a Planning and Zoning Commission candidate endorsed by the Westport Democratic Town Committee and Save Westport Now, had placed many signs listing his name, as well as the names of fellow P&Z candidates Michael Cammeyer and Danielle Dobin.
“When I got there this morning, it was strange because I knew they had put a banner up and I didn’t see any signs with any of their names,” Rutstein said. “I went in and voted and then I went back out to make sure I didn’t mistakenly not see it and I didn’t see anything, so I went back inside and people directed me towards the Registrar of Voters.”
Westport has two Registrars of Voters, one appointed by the Democratic Town Committee and the other appointed by the Republican Town Committee. Rutstein spoke with Kevin White, the RTC-appointed Registrar of Voters, who had removed the signs.
“We explained that at the time the signs were removed it was our understanding that they were not supposed to be on Town Hall property,” White said, and added, “That was later corrected.”
White did not return the signs to their former location upon learning of his mistake. “I asked where he put them and he told me he put them against the baseball field so I walked there, and there were the signs on the floor and the banner all wrapped up. I moved them back but we had no space on the hill because every spot was taken,” Megan Rutstein said.
After seeing the signs in the baseball field behind Town Hall, Rutstein spoke with White again. “I went back and talked to him and said, I’m so disappointed in this because if you realized you made a mistake, how come you didn’t then fix it?,” Rutstein said.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136, who was not up for election, was campaigning outside Town Hall around 1 p.m. this morning. “Why did White only remove Democrats’ signs?” he asked, noting that in addition to Rutstein, Cammeyer, and Dobin’s signs, White also took down some of Democratic Board of Finance candidate Lee Caney’s signs.
But, Steinberg added, “Signs don’t win elections, candidates do.”
Representative Town Meeting District 9 candidate Sal Liccione was campaigning with Steinberg and said, “This whole campaign on both sides has been disgusting. I think the temperature needs to drop after today.”