War of words extends beyond Election Day for candidates in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — The battle between two candidates vying for the 90th District seat in the state legislature ended on Election Day, but a war of words between the two sides has lasted longer.

On Nov. 8, incumbent state Rep. Craig Fishbein earned a fourth term, defeating Democratic challenger Rebecca Hyland with 55% of the vote. The district covers part of Wallingford and Middlefield. 

But comments made that night by Hyland and the next morning by her campaign manager, Whitney Mooney, and Fishbein's response, have extended the rivalry.

In her concession speech, Hyland didn't hold back her disappointment with the election results.

"In all likelihood, we probably didn't win, and Fishbein sucks," Hyland told her supporters to applause. "And clearly not enough people watched the debate because he sounded like a bumbling idiot."

The next morning Mooney made a comment on Twitter that Fishbein took to be referring to him.

"I am so sick of (expletive) white Republican men winning elections," Mooney tweeted.

Fishbein responded by tweeting: “This is the campaign manager for my opponent in the recent election, commenting the day after. #Shameful Thankfully, the voters were not fooled. #ThankYou #WallingfordCT #MiddlefieldCT for OVERWHELMINGLY supporting my re-election.”

In a statement to the Record-Journal, Fishbein said: "I denounce the racist and genderist comments made by the Hyland campaign. In my opinion, there should be more empathy and less harmful rhetoric in this world. It is truly unfortunate that neither the candidate nor the Wallingford Democrat Town Committee feel it appropriate to join in my disdain for these insensitive comments.”

Mooney deleted the tweet but said it wasn't aimed at Fishbein.

"My tweet was commentary on the elections across the nation after the news that Greg Abbott won Texas by a landslide, Ron DeSantis won Florida, and JD Vance won Ohio using an endorsement from (former president Donald) Trump," she said. 

"Rep. Fishbein assumed the tweet was about him as I am Rebecca Hyland's campaign manager," she said. "I am also a 29-year-old female in a country that just overturned Roe v. Wade and that was the voice represented in my tweet. I hope we can use this conversation constructively as I am still scared at the growing extremism in our country. My worry is about our country at large. 

"While Fishbein and I don't share the same politics, I do not have animosity toward him for winning the election," she said. 

Fishbein, also a member of the Wallingford Town Council, said he believes the tweet referred to him, not other winning Republican white male candidates, and could also refer to newly elected Judge of Probate Patrick Birney, also a white male Republican. Mooney was also campaign chair for Birney’s Democratic opponent, Nicole Barillaro.

“It is laughable to try to believe that the campaign manager for the Hyland and Barillaro campaigns, both of which were lost to white male Republican candidates, the very morning after the losses, was somehow referring to other white male Republican candidates, in other parts of the country,” Fishbein said. “I think the general public is a lot smarter than that.

“And even so, under what possible auspices is this an appropriate statement in any context? It is hateful and divisive and should be rejected,” he said. “And yet Hyland, Barillaro and the Wallingford Democrat Town Committee (as Mooney is apparently one of its officers) apparently believe the statement to be reasonable and appropriate political discourse? Well, I for one do not.” 

Hyland said she stands by her words on election night, which she said on the record in the presence of a Record-Journal reporter.

"It’s alarming that this man in power is focused on personal criticisms instead of helping the people he’s supposed to represent," Hyland said. "It’s behavior disturbingly similar to Trump: if you are mean to me I will go out of my way to destroy you. My personal opinions of him did not form the basis of my platform nor did they distract from the issues upon which I ran. And that’s why he’s attacking me the only way he knows how, with statements made post election about him personally."

Democratic Town Committee Chair Alida Cella said her party doesn't have  "a very high opinion of Craig Fishbein, and he’s given us plenty of reasons to hold this opinion.

“Fishbein’s voting record can speak to his character," she said. "He has voted against banning conversion therapy, a truly horrid practice, has voted against legislation to cap the price of insulin, against protections for victims in domestic violence situations, is currently suing the state over gun legislation, and has sued the state over Covid restrictions. These are issues that were widely bipartisanly supported, indicating how far out of step Fishbein is within his own party."

Local Republican party officials could not be reached for comment.

In 2020, Fishbein apologized for retweeting a racist meme and later voted in support of his own censure by the Wallingford Town Council.


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