Strunk, a Democrat, Opts for Third-Party Run, Calls Out Party Members in Stonington

Incumbent Selectman June Strunk, a Democrat, has chosen to run as a petitioning candidate with the Forward Party rather than primary for a spot on the Democratic ticket. (Courtesy of June Strunk)


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STONINGTON — Citing what she described as slanderous comments made by members of her own party, Democratic Selectman June Strunk has announced she will not primary in September but will run as a petitioning candidate with the Forward Party.

“It’s been ongoing, but it really ramped up right before the nominating meeting,” Strunk said of the criticism from her own party.

In a phone conversation with CT Examiner on Friday, Strunk did not name the party members who she said spoke against her and would not discuss the nature of the comments. 

Strunk, who is running for her third term, was nominated at the Democratic caucus in July, but lost the party endorsement for second selectman in a 25–12 vote to Ben Tamsky, former chair of Planning and Zoning, who is running with Laura Graham as the candidate for first selectman. 

“I want to be on the ballot, and if they were this ruthless in just the vote for the DTC nomination, what’s it going to be like for a full-blown primary?” Strunk said. “And I just thought, if I lose the primary, I have no opportunity to be on the ballot. That’s why I decided to cancel doing the primary and I’m just gonna petition to be on the ballot.”

When asked why she chose to run as a Forward Party candidate, Strunk told CT Examiner she “just thought that was a better, stronger place to be than just by myself on the ballot”

First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough is also running for reelection as a  Forward Party candidate, but Strunk emphasized that her campaign and Chesebrough’s would be entirely separate, rather than a joint ticket.

“We have separate treasurers. We don’t have an account that’s like ‘Danielle and June for Stonington’ or something like that,” she said. 

Strunk said her campaign platform was similar to those of Chesebrough and incumbent Selectman Deborah Downie, a Republican – the three have governed the town since 2019 and ran unopposed in 2021. 

“I mean, we all want the same thing.  We want some clarification on short-term rentals and low-cost, affordable housing. We want to finish the boathouse park. We want to start the Circus Lot Park if we can get grants for that,” she said. 

Strunk said that she, Chesebrough and Downie also wanted to reach a conclusion with the Stillman Avenue property by testing to see whether the property requires remediation. 

Strunk told CT Examiner that if elected she will work to serve the town with the other winning candidates regardless of party affiliation. 

“I just want to say there are eight people on the ballot and if I’m elected I can and I promise to support and work with whoever is elected. I have no issue with anyone on the ballot,” she said. 

In a phone call with CT Examiner on Friday, Sara Baker, chair of the Stonington Democratic Town Committee, emphasized the need for civility in the race in response to Strunk’s claims.

“What I can say as DTC chair is that I have a firm belief that engagement and participation is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy. So with that being said, I believe that all candidates and all campaigns are deserving of a dignified and respectful experience while they are candidates. I thank June for her many years of service to the town, and wish all candidates and campaigns the best for November and I hope that every candidate and every campaign will commit to being civil and respectful throughout this process.”

Editor’s note: The Stonington Democratic Town Committee vote was 25-12, in favor of Ben Tamsky, not 25-21. This story has been updated.