WALLINGFORD — The local Democratic Party chose to retain its existing slate of leaders during a contested election of town committee officers last week.
“We’re looking forward to making Wallingford shine again, and will keep building and organizing until we achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves,” said Alida Cella, who was re-elected chairperson of the Democratic Town Committee.
All of the leadership positions aside from treasurer — held by Kristi Doer — saw incumbents faced by challengers. Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission alternate Aili McKeen, who declined to comment for this article, made a bid against Cella for chair of the local party and received around 44 percent of the 95 votes cast.
Riley O’Connell, who ran a close race against Republican Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. last year, nominated McKeen for chairperson, with Board of Education member Michael Votto seconding the nomination.
“I think it’s never been more important to have a united and forward thinking DTC and I think Aili is the right person to take on this responsibility at this time,” O’Connell said. “I believe Aili is someone who can carry essentially the momentum of continuing some of the good work and good things that current leadership has done, while crucially implementing a much needed overarching strategy which I understand is focusing on increasing transparency and a real sense of unity that I think our DTC needs.”One slate
Jeffery Knickerbocker, a former chairperson of the Wallingford DTC, was nominated for the vice chairperson position, challenging incumbent Fran LaFrance-Proscino. He said that he wanted to return to party leadership because he believes that party has been having difficulty both getting new faces elected and finding Democrats to nominate for appointed positions in town.
In the most recent municipal election, he said the decision to group Town Council and Board of Education candidates together as a slate, rather than running them independently, made it difficult for candidates not already established to get name recognition. In the end, he noted, only incumbents were re-elected, while Republicans were able to bring new faces onto both bodies.
“I really do feel like the people that we had running would have made excellent councilors and excellent Board of Ed members,” he said. “ … They didn't connect with the voters … I believe they were hamstrung because they were part of a slate.”
Regarding appointed positions to town boards and committees, Knickerbocker said the issue seems to be the party isn’t looking for people interested in those positions, which he doesn’t believe has been an issue for Republicans in town.
“I'm not aware of the Republicans having a hard time — it seems to be a DTC specific issue,” he said.Adjustments
Cella said the party has taken lessons over the past few years and has made structural improvements, while continuing the team building and volunteer base already established.
“We have made many structural and organizational improvements to the DTC in the last two years, and much of that was being developed as we went along. Looking forward to the next two years, we have learned lessons of what worked and what did not, and what adjustments we might make going forward to improve our outreach and communication to registered Democrats,” she said.
Whitney Mooney, who is currently serving as the interim secretary for the party, was elected to that position over a challenge from Mike Glidden. Both Mooney and LaFrance-Proscino received 77.9 percent of the vote.Breadth of views
State Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said working with the Democratic coalition in Hartford has shown her the breadth of views in the party and the importance of people working together. She noted that all the officer candidates had their own set of skills and said that space should remain for all their views.
“We have a lot of combination here in our town committee of tactical skills and building skills and we also have a lot of folks on the town committee that have a lot of street smarts who grew up or lived a long time in Wallingford and know the community really well and rather than have one group ort the other group completely control the agenda, it’s good to have … that mix of people who will put stuff on the agenda that makes the party stronger,” she said.
Reporter Devin Leith-Yessian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.