Unaffiliated Southington council candidate outspends political parties – ‘I have to build everything from the ground up’

Unaffiliated Southington council candidate outspends political parties – ‘I have to build everything from the ground up’

Record-Journal


SOUTHINGTON — An unaffiliated Town Council candidate has spent more money on his campaign since July than either the Democratic or Republican town committees have spent thus far this year on all their various races.

Jack Perry, owner of HQ Dumpsters and Recycling, contributed much of the money to fund his campaign. He faces an uphill battle as a political outsider, he said, and needs to establish what other parties already have in place.

“I have to build everything from the ground up,” Perry said.

Republicans have outraised and outspent Democrats by a wide margin. According to State Elections Enforcement Commission records, the Republican Town Committee raised $20,360 while the Democratic Town Committee raised $11,440.

Thus far, Republicans have spent $15,534 on lawn signs, billboards, food, a booth at the Apple Harvest festival and fundraiser costs. Democrats spent $8,485 on similar items, although they didn’t rent a booth at this year’s festival.

Records indicate that Republican and Democratic campaigns for Town Council, Board of Education and the Planning and Zoning Commission are being funded exclusively through their respective town committees, which file paperwork on behalf of the committee. By actively fundraising, Perry’s campaign is required to report direct contributions and expenditures.

In his filing of July 1 to Sept. 30 with the Town Clerk’s office, Perry spent $15,740 on signs, political consulting, direct mail and Facebook advertising. He’d raised $5,200 from individuals and used $12,000 of his own money for campaign expenses.

Brian Callahan, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said the focus for Republicans is reminding residents of what’s been accomplished during the party’s control of the council. The town has good schools, good roads, modest tax increases, a new senior center under construction and an arts center downtown, he said.

“We’ve been doing all the things the people, the taxpayers expect of us,” he said. “People sometimes forget all the things that have been done.”

Callahan said his party’s campaign spending was justified.

“Advertising and all that is a lot of money. It takes a lot of money to get your message out there,” he said. “I don’t think we overspend, I don’t think we over-circulate information.”

Bob Berkmoes, Democratic town chairman, said he’s not worried about the funding gap between parties. He said residents are concerned about increasing taxes and debt service under the current Republican majority and will likely favor the Democratic party’s candidates this year.

“We have a tremendous, great slate this year,” Berkmoes said. “All our boards are just dynamic people.”

He was optimistic about Democratic chances this year.

“We’re getting the word out, we’re getting the message out. We’re going to make it happen. This is our year,” Berkmoes said.

Perry, son of Kurt Holyst of HQ Landscaping, has regularly attended council meetings and spoken on a variety of issues, such as a recent change to the town’s ethics ordinance. He supports increased transparency, he said.

Perry unsuccessfully bid for the Apple Harvest Festival committee coordinator position last year. According to Town Councilor Tom Lombardi, he’d offered to drop his bid of $20,000 in exchange for promotion rights for HQ at the festival but lost out to Jim Champagne, who’s run the event for years. Perry said he was only looking for recognition that he’d do the same job for $10,000 rather than $20,000 less.

Perry and town officials have had public disagreements over bidding practices, early-morning hauling and his application for a booth at this year’s Apple Harvest Festival. Perry did have a booth, as well as a float, for his campaign at the festival.

“My impression is that because of his actions and interplay with the town, I think he’s going in there with an agenda, for himself and HQ,” Callahan said. “I think he definitely has an agenda.”

Perry said he supported a financial disclosure for town officials and isn’t looking to gain anything for his business by serving on the Town Council.

“I don’t have an agenda for my business,” he said. “I’m doing this for the Southington people.”

Perry said a party asked him to run but he declined. He wouldn’t say which party asked him to run and said he preferred to run as an unaffiliated candidate. The party had offered him a slot on the Board of Education, which Perry thought didn’t fit his skills and could create a conflict of interest since HQ does work for the schools.

Berkmoes declined to comment on whether Democrats had asked Perry to run. Callahan said his party had made no such request of Perry.

If elected, Perry said he’ll recuse himself from votes that would conflict with his company.

“I don’t plan on getting any work out of this,” he said. “People will see once I’m elected that I’ll fight for the people.”

Unlike the opposing parties, Perry has spent money on Facebook ads. He said he’s looking to run a very active campaign and has held several events thus far with more planned.

Filing as a candidate committee, Perry can only accept individual contributions of up to $250. Contributors to town committees can give up to $2,000.

If he runs again in two years, Perry said he’s considering forming a party to accept larger donations and get more people involved. He intends to stay involved with politics regardless of this November’s outcome.

“I’m going to continue going to council meetings whether I’m elected or not,” Perry said.

jbuchanan@recordjournal.com 203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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