Westport Democrats endorse Jonathan Steinberg for first selectman

Photo of Amanda Cuda
An exterior of Westport Town Hall in Westport, Conn., on Friday Apr. 17, 2020. The building has been closed to the public since min-March due to the coronavirus.

An exterior of Westport Town Hall in Westport, Conn., on Friday Apr. 17, 2020. The building has been closed to the public since min-March due to the coronavirus.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The Democratic Town Committee officially named state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg as the party’s candidate for first selectman and Board of Education chairwoman Candice Savin as its pick for second selectman during its caucus Wednesday night.

The nominations came one day after a fellow DTC member dropped a lawsuit against Steinberg, alleging defamation and “cronyism.” Steinberg vehemently denied the allegations in the lawsuit.

The committee also named the rest of its slate for November’s municipal elections during the virtual meeting. About 90 people registered to attend the meeting via Zoom, including 60 members of the DTC.

Steinberg accepted the nomination, stating he was up to the challenge of the position.

“Anything worth doing tends to be hard,” he said. “We’re ready for it. It’s what Westporters want and expect from their leaders.”

The members voted unanimously to endorse Savin as the second selectman candidate. Though the committee voted to endorse Steinberg, there were two objections and one abstention. One of the objections came from DTC member Kristan Hamlin, who filed — and then dropped — the lawsuit against Steinberg and DTC secretary Lisa Newman, who also denied the allegations in the complaint.

In the lead-up to Wednesday’s meeting, Andrew Nevas, chairman of the DTC nominating committee, said the committee interviewed five “highly qualified individuals” and decided Steinberg was the best candidate for the party’s endorsement.

“In no way was the process preordained and predetermined,” Nevas said.

Those who nominated Steinberg spoke of his many years in the legislature and praised his strength as a leader, including DTC member Rebecca Martin.

“This is a transformational time and we need a leader to meet the moment,” Martin said.

Lauren Soloff, who seconded the nomination, called Steinberg “a man of unquestionable integrity.”

However, not everyone spoke in such glowing terms. Aside from Hamlin — who chose not to speak at the meeting after objecting to Steinberg’s nomination — the other opposition came from DTC member Sheri Gordon, who questioned whether Steinberg was the right person to lead the Democratic party to victory in the election.

“I want to win,” she said.

A day earlier, members of Westport’s Republic Town Committee met to officially endorse its candidates for the municipal elections. Among those receiving the unanimous endorsement of the Westport Republican Party were Westport Second Selectwoman Jen Tooker for first selectman, and Westport Board of Finance Vice Chairwoman Andrea Moore for second selectman.

Other endorsements included Robert Harrington, Dorie Hordon and Board of Education vice chairwoman Karen Kleine for Board of Education, Michael Keller for Board of Finance; former Westport Planning and Zoning Commission member Jack Whittle for Planning and Zoning Commission; and Board of Assessment Appeals member Joe Sledge for reelection.