April 24, 2014 11:36AM
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD — Republicans aren’t holding back the Democratic Party in Wallingford, said Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos on Thursday. Democrats are holding themselves back. Economopoulos, a Democrat, said this was the message he tried to convey during Wednesday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting.
“Our problem is right within the room,” he said Thursday.
Economopoulos, who was not reelected to the Town Council, prompted a discussion Wednesday night that became “accusatory,” said Democratic Town Councilor John Sullivan.
“My rebuttal,” Sullivan said, “is that Nick needs to take accountability for himself and his results.”
After Economopoulos lost his bid for a Town Council seat on Nov. 5, he blamed his defeat on Sullivan for his lack of support since they began serving on the council together in 2008. Economopoulos said he was “ousted” by Sullivan, who was the only Democrat reelected to the council. Town Councilor Jason Zandri lost his seat in an unsuccessful bid for mayor. Sullivan will be joined in January by Democrat Larry Russo, a newcomer to politics with whom Sullivan campaigned, and Democrat Vincent Testa, who previously served on the council.
On Thursday, Economopoulos said he was bothered by the loss initially, but now, “I feel better about it.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Economopoulos said, he gave his analysis of the Democratic Party’s failures. Most disagree with his analysis, he said, and those who agree are not vocal enough.
“I just believe in helping people,” he said. In general, the local party “is not concerned with helping people.”
Some people in the party are happy with the election results, he said, even though Democrats remain the minority on the council and Republican Mayor William W. Dickinson is still in power.
But Sullivan said the Democratic Party is moving forward in a positive manner. During Wednesday’s meeting, there were “very progressive” plans put forth, he said, which included forming committees to attract new members and raise money.
“We don’t look in the rearview mirror,” Sullivan said. “We look forward, not backwards.”
Democratic Town Chairman Vinnie Avallone was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
The Democratic Party is looking at its future with “rose-colored glasses,” Economopoulos said. It’s not reality, but the “perception of reality that counts in politics,” he said, and “what reality is and the perception are not very close together.”
There is no reason not to be positive about winning the election, Sullivan said. “Of course I’m happy I won,” he said. “I worked hard to win. Are we happy being in the minority? Of course not.”
Going forward, the party needs to reflect on the successful aspects of this year’s election, Sullivan said.
There are no “sour grapes” involving Sullivan anymore, Economopoulos said. “I lost fair and square,” he said. “I didn’t get cheated.”
But Zandri said Thursday that Economopoulos’ commentary Wednesday night continued in the same vein as comments that came after the election, except “he added more depth to it.”
“I don’t know how constructive that was overall,” Zandri said of the discussion started by Economopoulos Wednesday night. Conversation went off topic, he said, and the talk was better suited for a non-public meeting. There were new faces at the meeting, Zandri said, “and they saw some arguing.”
When trying to attract newcomers to the party, “you want to be a little neater,” Zandri said. Economopoulos should get credit as a watchdog and a veracious fighter on the council, he said.
“At the end of the day, I understand his disappointment,” Zandri said. “But I don’t believe anyone actively worked against anyone else.”
Economopoulos said he asked Sullivan during the meeting to name one issue he supported him on. Sullivan answered that he did not support him on any issues, according to Economopoulos, because “they were harebrained.”
Sullivan confirmed Economopoulos’ recollection of the conversation. Being a politician is about “doing what is right, not about supporting anyone,” Sullivan said.
At one point, Zandri said, he had to engage Economopoulos verbally because he “went after” state Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford. Economopoulos told Mushinsky her seat will be challenged during next year’s election, said Zandri, who was angered by the comment.
“He might be spot-on correct,” Zandri said. “But you don’t sweep people’s feet. The bad thing is we lost a watchdog in Nick, but the way he was calling out people in the room; that was wrong.”
Economopoulos said there is never a “proper time” to discuss things in the Democratic Party. It’s not proper before an election, during an election or after an election, he said. “So when the hell is it proper. Give me the proper moment when we can go head to head and we can look at one another in the eye and say what we think of them.”
“Every time we do it, it’s never the proper time, because no one wants to hear the truth,” he said.
It’s not wrong to express feelings during a town committee meeting, Sullivan responded, “but I don’t think you should be personally attacking people.”
Regarding continued participation in the party, Economopoulos said, “I can never shut a door.” But, he added, he will take time to evaluate if civic service is in his future.