At the end of every campaign, especially those campaigns for local office, many of us armchair pundits feel compelled to make comment about the results. I am certainly no exception to that, even though I do not consider myself any more knowledgeable than many others who follow the goings-on in our town
That lack of expertise has never been a hindrance in the past, and, to the chagrin of some, it is not going to prove an impediment this week. So here are my observations as to what influenced the results of last Tuesday. I list them in no specific order: hard work, party affiliation, general Democrat motivation because of Trump, getting out the vote, and name recognition either through incumbency or previous community involvement.
Hard work: I know that there were many candidates who worked hard, sometimes to no avail. But the person one has to recognize in this regard is Gina Morgenstein. According to an article in the Record -Journal, Gina knocked on over 4,000 doors during the campaign, served or is serving on several boards or committees, and has been a frequent attendee of Town Council meetings. All of that served her well, and earned her electoral victory. She now represents all of us, and we wish her well.
Party affiliation: Many of us who think highly of John Sullivan were surprised at the outcome of his re-election bid. For years John has been one of the most visible, enthusiastic, and outspoken Town Councilors, and has earned the respect and friendship of many people in Wallingford. Having said that, however, his defeat does demonstrate that party affiliation still carries great weight with many voters in our town. It certainly is my hope that John will lend his talent and energy to other community endeavors.
Democrat party motivation: In this regard, I am not referring to local Democrat motivation but national angst that still roils the party as a result of the crushing defeat visited upon them exactly one year ago. Democrats nationwide are still smarting from that debacle. Yes, I read comments from party officials from other towns disputing such an impact, but certainly it is still a driver, all the way down to local elections.
Getting out the vote: The Democratic Party had checkers of their own at the polling places all day. I am not aware of what use they made of the data that they collected, but customarily such an effort indicates a party-led effort to get out the vote later in the day. The lower margin of victory for Mayor Dickinson, and the vote totals for the two incumbent Town Council Democrats lead me to believe that their efforts were rewarded, as well as being rewarded with a 5-4 majority on the Board of Education.
Name recognition and previous community involvement: That every party-endorsed incumbent Town Councilor was re-elected reveals the obvious: name recognition plays a large role in these campaigns. The numbers spell it out.
The races for membership on the Board of Education were noteworthy in that many incumbents from both parties chose not to run, making for an interesting “newbie” lineup.
Of all the newcomers that ran for seats on the Board of Ed, Patty Pursell did astoundingly well. Her 27-year teaching career, including receipt of the Wallingford Teacher of the Year award, was only part of her resume. So sometimes previous community involvement gets rewarded, certainly in this case.
I cannot conclude this column without making mention of the very gratifying voting results on the question regarding charter revision. That almost two-thirds of the voters supported the revisions speaks to two factors: 1) obviously, the revisions made sense and did not alarm the voters; and 2) the “opposition” to Charter Revision chose to remain anonymous while the advocates formed a transparent organization to garner support for passage.
This lack of political fortitude probably did not sit well with voters, even Democrat voters whose party leadership, at the last minute, urged a NO vote.
I will close by noting one other inescapable factor in the Wallingford election results. The Republican Mayor of 34 years and all six Republican Town Councilors were re-elected. While the editors of this newspaper sought to attribute it to voters preferring the “status quo,” I believe that another factor was in play.
Wallingford has achieved a statewide reputation as a place of financial stability, of careful conservative fiscal principles, of very carefully avoiding being drawn into spending money it does not know for certain is “in the bank.” The Democrat-dominated State of Connecticut is a nationwide laughingstock for its last-in-the-nation state budget.
If the voters of Wallingford opted for the “status quo,” in this case it can be freely translated as Latin for “avoiding progressive financial meltdowns.” Congratulations to them for their good sense.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.