CANDIDATE OPINION: The drawbacks of misleading partisanship

By Riley O'Connell

Normally I ignore the ramblings of Stephen Knight. At this point I just assume everyone already sees him for what he is: the mayor’s personal propagandist. The last thing I want to do is draw more attention to his purposefully misleading columns. That being said, even by his standards, he’s managed to achieve new levels of political hackery with his most recent piece, “The drawbacks of taking a new path,” and this should not go unchallenged.

Trust me when I say that I’d much prefer to have a more productive discussion on the policy differences between the mayor and myself, but given that Mayor Dickinson refuses to have a proper debate or publish platform details beyond “shine on,” this becomes impossible. Instead, let’s take this opportunity to unpack several of the more egregious claims Mr. Knight made last Sunday.

No, I have never suggested that we “kick over the game board” and initiate a “radical” upheaval of local government. In fact, there is nothing “radical” about my proposed plan whatsoever, unless the mere existence of a plan is now considered radical after 38 years without one.

His summary of my resume was also a little off, particularly his claim that I have “no public service record,” despite my career as a public servant at some of the highest levels of the Department of Justice. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was just confusing my resume with that of our current mayor, who did have zero public service experience when he first took office.

In regards to his comments on the Electric Division, I would be remiss if I did not at least congratulate Mr. Knight for finally learning about the leasing situation of the Pierce plant, a concept that conveniently eluded his understanding last election cycle. Regardless, if he had just read the entirety of my webpage on energy, or simply had not taken my quote entirely out of context, he would have his apparent confusion dispelled. It mostly boils down to the potential for data centers to double Wallingford’s energy consumption and using that opportunity to be proactive, rather than reactive, about how we choose to invest in future means of energy production.

The part of Mr. Knight’s column I found to be the most dishonest, however, almost laughably so, was his shameless defense of the EDC. To be absolutely clear, I have no problem with the EDC itself, contrary to what he implies. What I do take issue with is that he never discloses that he is in fact paid by the EDC for positive promotion. Yes, you read that correctly, Mr. Knight is paid (with taxpayer money) to make the EDC look good. Even better, he doubles down by quoting “From the Desk of Joe” as an independent source, when in reality he was paid to ghostwrite that very article himself. I honestly don’t know what I find more concerning, the growing possibility that Mr. Knight has never read anything that he himself did not write, or how little his complete disregard for transparency seems to bother him.

Mr. Knight has come to represent the kind of grotesque partisan politics that has long plagued our country on the national level, that perhaps we were too naive to believe did not exist in our own community. Even so, if he were just acting alone, his column would not evoke a response from me. The sad reality is he is only one of many cogs in the Dickinson political machine, for which mudslinging has become standard in the campaign playbook.

Anyone who attended last weekend’s Celebrate Wallingford event may have experienced these tactics firsthand if they were approached by anyone wearing a “Dickinson for Mayor” T-shirt, spoiling what was otherwise a perfect day. These enlisted volunteers (as opposed to random supporters) were going around with the express purpose of spreading lies about my personal life, my career, my campaign, etc. Notice a trend yet? In truth, I take these fabricated attacks as compliments; it means they failed to find flaws in my platform so they had to resort to the lowest form of politicking out of desperation. When it comes to integrity in campaigns and the administrations they produce, the apple never falls far from the tree.

The critical miscalculation in their strategy, however, is that it underestimates Wallingford voters and our ability to think for ourselves. That’s all I encourage you to do in this election. Compare my plan ( to Mayor Dickinson’s (, and determine for yourself which you believe sets a clear path forward for Wallingford.

Lastly, when Mr. Knight’s rebuttal inevitably follows, just remember exactly who he aims to serve and who fills his pockets. How much trust can you put into his words?

Riley O’Connell is the Democratic candidate for mayor in Wallingford.

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