Democrats in Wallingford differ on how many council candidates to run

Democrats in Wallingford differ on how many council candidates to run


FILE PHOTO: Jason Zandri

WALLINGFORD — Members of the Democratic Party disagree over whether the party should have nominated six or seven Town Council candidates for November’s election.

At a Democratic Town Committee meeting last month, party members voted 24-22 to endorse seven candidates, one more than the maximum number of candidates that can be elected to the Town Council from a single party.

Seven people expressed an interest in running for council, but some party members feared that endorsing seven candidates would mean Democratic candidates competing against each other for votes because a maximum of six can be elected.

Those in favor of endorsing seven people said any candidate who meets the qualifications should be endorsed so that voters can decide.

“I have very big problem with 50 or 60 people in the room choosing to eliminate an individual from consideration for an office that the people should decide,” said incumbent Democratic Councilor Jason Zandri, who is seeking reelection. “I have always been of the opinion if an individual meets the covenants of the party” they should be endorsed.

Zandri felt so strongly that he stood up at the meeting last month and said he would refuse the party’s nomination if it did not endorse all seven candidates. Zandri told fellow Democrats he would petition onto the ballot as a Democrat, giving the party seven candidates anyway.

Following Zandri’s comments, the party narrowly voted to endorse seven candidates and then unanimously endorsed the seven candidates, including incumbents Zandri and Vincent Testa, as well as Gina Morgenstein, Bruce Conroy, Jaime Hine, Jesse Reynolds and Darrell Stancuna.

The party is also running seven candidates for the Board of Education.

Democratic Town Chairman Jeffrey Knickerbocker said he is happy to run seven candidates and believes he has a good slate.

“I like Jason and he’s got a flare for the dramatic and I thought it was in keeping with his character,” Knickerbocker said about Zandri’s threat to refuse the party’s nomination. “When he feels that something is important, he will take drastic measures to make sure it gets done.”

Zandri said he is grateful he didn’t have to petition onto the ballot as a Democrat, but noted that the move has precedent locally.

Former Democratic Councilor Nick Economopoulos petitioned onto the ballot in 2009 and won a council seat after not being one of six candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party.

Conroy said running seven candidates could be advantageous because many voters mistakenly believe they have to vote for nine candidates on the ballot without knowing they can vote for fewer than nine.

“If people are going to vote for six Democrats, they’re going to vote for seven Democrats,” Conroy said.

“In my opinion, I’d run nine (Democratic candidates).”

“It’s just a strategy thing,” Conroy said about the party’s discussion over how many candidates to run.

“There’s always heated discussions, but there’s no hard feelings.”

The Democrats, who currently hold two seats on the council, have held a council minority since 2009.

Three Democrats were elected to the council in 2015, but councilor John Sullivan left the party and became unaffiliated weeks after the election, citing disagreements with party leadership.

All six incumbent Republican candidates are seeking reelection. 203-317-2279 Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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