WALLINGFORD — Amid flaring tempers and shouting voices from the audience, Republicans rejected the Democratic-endorsed candidate for Town Council Tuesday night, filling the seat with former Democratic council member Jason Zandri.
The vote was 6 to 0, with the two current Democratic councilors, Vincent Testa and Sam Carmody, abstaining from the vote on Zandri’s appointment after the Republicans voted down the Democrats’ choice, Alexa Tomassi.
Former Town Councilor Gina Morgenstein resigned Jan. 7. The Town Charter requires that the Town Council fill the vacancy by appointing someone of the same party affiliation, in this case a Democrat.
The local Democratic Town Committee nominated Tomassi, the next highest vote-getter for Town Council in November’s municipal election, which was Morgenstein’s wish as well.
Morgenstein said via email Tuesday that she felt it was “so wrong that the public was not given fair due.”
“It is very disappointing that the first action from this newly seated council was a partisan and political one that disenfranchised the 5,854 Wallingford voters who cast their ballot for Alexa Tomassi,” Morgenstein said. “This new council has failed in recognizing the importance of previous councils who honored precedent and resisted partisan political temptation.”
Tomassi said after the votes were over that when she heard that Zandri was probably going to be nominated, it shook her confidence but she hoped the precedent and the process would succeed.
“I do think that my votes count,” she said. “I was told otherwise during this process. To me, putting in a person who didn't run and effectively received zero votes last year, I don't think reflects the will of the electorate.”
She said while her next steps aren’t clear and that she wants to “take a breather after all this… I'm not going to stop… If the people know that I'm still going to fight for them, then that's enough for me.”
Testa nominated Tomassi and Carmody seconded the motion. After the council voted down Tomassi’s appointment along party lines, Republican Councilor Craig Fishbein nominated Zandri and Republican Councilor Joe Marrone seconded the motion.
After Tomassi’s appointment was voted down, dozens of people shouted their disappointment — some using obscenities, some pointing their vitriol at Zandri.
Zandri said via email after his appointment that he felt the actions of the Democrats in the audience were “vulgar and vile to the process and the sitting council.”
“The accusations were totally off the wall and wholly improper,” he said. “Somewhere between JFK and AOC the Democratic Party has lost its way. I don't know how we got from ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ to tax the rich, cancel the dissenters, defund the police, and universal payments for all.”
Alida Cella, Democratic Town Committee chairperson, said that the council needed “an ethos, an ethic that is about trust, and more than about just yourselves up there tonight, and who you would prefer to work with.”
Democratic mayoral candidate Riley O’Connell said that the will of the nearly 6,000 voters who voted for Tomassi in the municipal election “fell on deaf ears.”
Police were present outside Town Hall Tuesday night. Sgt. Joseph Cafasso said that a few officers had waited outside in cruisers in the Town Hall parking lot and surrounding business parking lots, however no officers entered the building during the meeting.