WALLINGFORD — The Democratic Town Committee overwhelmingly voted to endorse Bob Avery as the Democratic registrar of voters over incumbent Barbara Kapi.
Kapi, with over five years of experience in the registrar’s office, lost the party’s endorsement to Avery last month by a vote margin of about 2-to-1, said town committee chairwoman Robin Hettrick.
It’s unusual for an incumbent registrar of voters to lose a party’s endorsement by such a wide margin, officials said. Kapi previously worked as the assistant registrar of voters under Betty Torre from 2014 to April 2017, when Torre retired and Kapi took over. Kapi also served as the town clerk from 2008 to 2010 and previously served time as Democratic registrar in the mid-2000s.
Kapi said she “wasn’t happy about” the outcome but doesn’t plan to challenge Avery in a primary this August. Kapi said Monday she instead plans to take a “different route,” but declined to elaborate because she hasn’t formalized her plans yet.
“I still have a few people to talk to,” she said.
Avery, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has worked on elections for the party and wanted to get more involved, Hettrick said.
“Bob is a very approachable individual and he’s been a member of the town committee for a long time,” she said.
Hettrick believes Kapi lost the endorsement, in part, because the town committee has many new members who wanted to see “new energy and new involvement.”
“A lot of the newer party members are very engaged and asked a lot of questions and have pushed for change in things that we’re doing, so that could be a part of it,” said Hettrick, who took over as chair in March for Jeffrey Knickerbocker.
Hettrick also said some party members expressed concern that Kapi has yet to complete a training and certification program required by law by the Secretary of the State’s Office. Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman with the Secretary of the State’s Office, confirmed Monday that Kapi has yet to complete the certification training.
The training includes eight sections totaling 25 hours. Kapi has until the end of her current term in January to complete the training under a state law passed in 2015 that mandated the training to “strengthen the state’s elections.”
After each section, registrars of voters have to take a quiz and score 80 percent or higher. At the culmination of all eight sections, there is a final exam that requires a score of 70 percent or higher to become certified.
Hettrick said she “had heard some concerns about (Kapi’s) willingness to take the classes and pass the test.”
Knickerbocker, who voted to endorse Avery, said he worried the party would have to hold a special election next year to elect a certified registrar if Kapi didn’t get certified in time.
Kapi said Monday she intends to complete the training in the future and said she hasn’t done so yet because she’s had two knee surgeries in the past eight months.
“It’s a great expense to the town,” Kapi said, “but there's nothing we can do about that because it’s what the Secretary of State mandates.”
Kapi believes she lost the endorsement because party members are upset she supported John Sullivan, a former Democratic Town Councilor who became unaffiliated in 2015 due to disagreements with party leadership, in his unsuccessful bid for re-election.
Kapi posted one of Sullivan’s campaign signs on her lawn and donated to Sullivan’s campaign.
“I aggravated the powers that be,” Kapi said.
Knickerbocker mentioned Kapi’s support of Sullivan when asked why he thought the party did not endorse Kapi.
“As a former chair, I was disappointed that she had signs of candidates on her lawn that are not Democrats and I was also disappointed she attended fundraisers for candidates in other parties and I didn’t see her at Democratic fundraisers,” he said.
Avery wasn’t expecting to win the party’s endorsement going into the vote, Knickerbocker said.
“I was talking to Bob Avery beforehand and he thought he was going to lose. He didn't expect the lopsided victory he got,” Knickerbocker said.
Kapi would need to petition and receive around 380 signatures — 5 percent of registered Democrats in town — by a deadline of June 12 to qualify for a primary, according to Town Clerk Barbara Thompson.