Bruce Wilson, the Republican candidate for Madison First Selectman, said he has been knocking on doors since July, and is now ramped up his door knocking to seven days a week.
On a sunny, 75-degree Monday, Wilson walked up and down the streets off Neck Road, a neighborhood once mainly made up of summer homes and now populated year-round by families. With the beach just steps away, Wilson said that more families have chosen to tear down the smaller older cottages, combine lots and renovate family homes as the value of the land has increased.
Stopping at one smaller lot, the man opening the door told Wilson that he owns the house and the one next door, and plans to tear them down and rebuild.
Wilson asked about the motorcycle parked outside, which he said was similar to the bike he owns, and in the exact same shade of royal blue.
After discussing features and add-ons of different models, Wilson turned the conversation to his own background and the race, saying that “other than being a motorcycle guy,” he also volunteers on the Board of Selectman and used to run a manufacturing company.
“It’s always good to form a personal connection, and it’s genuine – I love motorcycles, so that’s an easy one,” Wilson said. “Sometimes it’s a classmate from high school or someone who knew one of my kids. It’s easier to have a conversation based on those personal connections, otherwise, it can just become me giving my elevator pitch.”
When a man opening a blue-green front door introduced himself as Phil Clorite, the name rang a bell.
“You wouldn’t happen to know Bill Clorite, would you?” asked Wilson.
“That’s my son,” Clorite said.
“I served with him on the Board of Education,” Wilson said. “You can check up on me with him.”
After sharing his local experience on the Board of Education and elsewhere, Wilson asked Clorite if he had a plan to vote this year. When Clorite said he planned to vote in person, Wilson made sure he was aware that a previous polling location was no longer active.
“There’s no more voting at the senior center, so I’ll save you a trip to the wrong place,” Wilson said.
Wilson says his door-knocking mission is not just to persuade voters that he’s the right choice, but to make sure they cast their ballot successfully, especially as many residents may not even be aware that there is an election this November.
“With COVID, the senior center is a relatively compact area and it can get crowded in there, so with social distancing, the decision was made last year to move to the Polson gymnasium,” Wilson said. “It worked out so well last year that going forward, the school district is just going to take a professional development day, leaving the parking lot wide open and giving people lots of open space to vote.”
Answering the door of a tan two-story house, Madison resident Dianne Murphy straight away told Wilson that he had her and her husband’s support, and asked Wilson for a sign for her yard.
After asking about his background in local politics, Murphy told Wilson about her personal experience with the rise in car thefts in the area.
“I must’ve left my car doors open, and money was taken, so now, I’m very careful about locking the doors at night,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t much, but still, it’s people touching your things. People say you don’t need to lock your doors living here, but these days, you really do.”
Wilson said working to find a solution would be a priority of his as First Selectman, and agreed that car thefts were a real issue, particularly in this beachside neighborhood where most residents park their cars outside.
“This neighborhood is right off the highway, so kids come into town from wherever and run up and down the streets checking for open cars,” Wilson said. “It’s a shame, and the police are trying to keep up as best they can.”
Wilson said learning about what issues are actually affecting residents is a real benefit of going door to door.
“I don’t often get to hear about local issues straight from the taxpayer,” Wilson said. “It’s very grounding to knock on doors and just hear from people themselves, especially because I’m in office right now. Just hearing from people who come to town meetings and other people in local office can be far removed from the actual voices of the taxpayers.”