WALLINGFORD — The Democratic Town Committee endorsed 13 candidates for the November election during a lengthy and sometimes contentious online caucus on Wednesday night.
The slate includes Riley O’Connell for mayor and Town Council challengers Nicole Barillaro, Sam Carmody, Bruce Conroy and Alexa Tomassi, plus council incumbents Gina Morgenstein and Vincent Testa.
The endorsed Wallingford Board of Education candidates include incumbents Kathy Castelli, Pat Reynolds and Michael Votto. The school board challengers are Jacquline McFarlane, Maureen Reed and Michael Urban.
This fall, the Wallingford mayoral seat, the nine Town Council seats and the nine Board of Education seats are up for election.
O’Connell noted the Democrats’ status as the council and school board minority party and the fact that as of that night, they had 104 days to do something about it. He said the Republicans, such as 38-year incumbent Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., “don’t think they have to run a real campaign to win reelection. They think they are above the community in a lot of ways.
“Essentially, the Republicans have thrown a gauntlet down. We have an opportunity that, if we just work hard enough, we will win this election,” he added.
Democratic Town Chairperson Alida Cella called the candidates a good mix of talent, experience, capability and vision.
“We asked them to go through a rigorous process to select the six best for each slate,” she said.
The candidates will have to work together to regain majorities, Cella said. Wallingford’s infrastructure is in decline and the GOP leadership is lethargic, she said.
“It’s the only way we will make substantial change,” Cella said. “We are sick and tired of what the town has become. We need to get substantial investment going back into our town.”
One prominent Democratic incumbent, four-term Town Councilor Jason Zandri, was not endorsed after resigning from the committee earlier this month. Zandri objected to the town committee executive board’s decision to run a limited number of candidates for Town Council and school board.
Under the Town Charter, a political party can run a slate of up to nine candidates for Town Council and another nine for the Board of Education, and hold up to six seats each on those governing bodies.
Zandri felt that he was likely the target of a motion, altered after much discussion, requiring town committee members to devote time, talent and treasure to the slate of candidates endorsed on Wednesday. Language prohibiting members from supporting other, non-endorsed candidates was changed after some members said they were uncomfortable with it.
Zandri said he doubted the passed motion would make any difference.
“There are 50 active members of the DTC. I don't believe my margin of winning or losing for that matter is within 50 votes but I guess we'll see,” Zandri said. “I have 400 signatures to collect first.”
Zandri needs 400 signatures to be placed on the ballot.