How Madison Turned Blue

This is the first in a series of reports by CT Examiner on towns across Connecticut changing partisan complexion — some red to blue and others blue to red. Madison, Connecticut was a Republican town. Two decades ago, there were nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats, and while a plurality of voters were not affiliated with either party, the town consistently elected Republicans and had a classically conservative sensibility.  “The Democratic party wasn’t even formed in Madison until the early 1960s,” said Al Goldberg, a member of the Madison Board of Selectmen. “There was no opposition party. People

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With the State on the Hook For $1 Billion in Matching Funds, Legislators Debate Taxes

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Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday urged Gov. Ned Lamont to set aside the highway usage fees for trucks passed by the state General Assembly in June, arguing that the governor’s “recent change-of-heart regarding TCI and tolls” should also extend to the truck tax.  Lamont announced on Tuesday that he would not be pursuing tolls or the Transportation Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade emissions program, in the coming legislative session.  He explained the decision as a response to the influx of billions of federal frastructure dollars, though environmental advocates argued that passing TCI was still necessary to obtain matching funds for

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Lamont Takes TCI Off the Table for Next Legislative Session

After lawmakers and advocates pushed for prioritizing the Transportation Climate Initiative as a legislative priority in the coming session, Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press conference Tuesday that he would not be pursuing the regional climate plan next January. In comments, Lamont made the case that given the large influx of federal dollars into the state from the American Rescue Plan and the new Build Back Better infrastructure plan, there is no longer as grave a need to raise revenue through TCI, which would have placed fees on fuel wholesalers to incentivize lower greenhouse gas emissions.  Lamont also pointed

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Voting Among Conn College Students Surged in the 2020 Elections

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According to a new study from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University, 77 percent of eligible Connecticut College students voted in the 2020 elections, a 17 percent increase from 2016 and a rate far exceeding national voter participation rates for students or the general population.  The report found that Connecticut College students voted at a rate 11 percent higher than American college students overall, 66 percent of whom turned out in 2020, a rate practically matching the 67 percent voter participation rate of the eligible public. That rate still far exceeded the study’s findings from the

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TCI a Needed Source of Matching Dollars for Infrastructure, Says Environmental Watchdog

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Heading into next year’s state legislative session, Lori Brown, executive director of Connecticut’s League of Conservation Voters, told CT Examiner that far from eclipsing the Transportation Climate Initiative, the billions of dollars of announced federal infrastructure spending for Connecticut means that the proposed fee on fuel wholesalers is more important than ever. “Connecticut will have to apply for competitive funds from Build Back Better, and we tend to do well applying for competitive funds, but a lot of that will be money our state has to match,” Brown explained. “For anyone who says, we’re getting all of this money now,

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Daryl Finizio Talks Policy, Politics in Announced Run for State Senate

Former New London Mayor Daryl Finizio is running for State Senate, challenging Deputy Republican Senate Leader Paul Formica in next November’s election. Finizio led New London from 2011 to 2015, and also works as an attorney.  Formica was first elected to the State Senate in 2014 with 56 percent of the vote. He won reelection handily in 2016 with 60 percent of the vote against Democrat Ryan Henowitz, and beat off challenges from Democrat Martha Marx in his next two races, though by smaller margins: Formica won with 52 percent of the vote in 2018 and 50.6 percent in 2020.  

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With Seat in Doubt, Ochman Changes Course, Retains Post on Board of Education

DARIEN — Days after announcing her decision to forgo her spots on the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education, Tara Ochman has changed her mind, and will in fact serve on the Board of Education for the last year of her term.  Ochman, who was the Democratic nominee for first selectman of Darien, said on Friday that she was choosing to step aside to allow those “most enthusiastic” about the seats to fill them.  David Bayne, chair of the Darien Democratic Town Committee, said Friday evening that the open spot on the Board of Education would be filled by

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After Failed Bid, Ochman Forgoes Seats on Darien Boards of Selectmen and Education

After losing her bid for first selectman of Darien, Tara Ochman, the Democratic nominee, has chosen to forgo her spots on the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education.  “I ran for First Selectman with a great team of candidates running for the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education, and I just thought that stepping aside would be the best way to honor the people most enthusiastic about those positions,” Ochman said.  While she does not yet know what is next, Ochman said she is not done giving back to Darien, and plans to take some time to

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Takeaways from Tuesday’s Election

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Reflecting on the results of Tuesday’s municipal elections, political leaders, operatives and observers around Connecticut reported better-than-expected results for Republicans, with bright spots for Democrats in the high-profile Guilford Board of Education race and other pockets of the state.  Republican Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, whose district includes North Branford and Guilford, said Republicans’ election performance should be a wake-up call for Democrats looking forward to next fall’s races.  “Municipalities have more money than they know what to do with from the American Rescue Plan, so there shouldn’t have been a lot of reason to throw out incumbents,” Candelora said. “Still,

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Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo Comments on Tuesday’s Election

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In a call, Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo comments to CT Examiner on Tuesday’s municipal elections. There were some disappointments, but there were also some wins that we were very excited about. We did flip some towns that were Republican to Democrat, and we did flip some boards and hold onto some boards in Republican-leaning towns. In many of the open seats, what happened is that the same party maintained power. For example, in Danbury, Republicans controlled the mayor’s seat, and Republicans won again. In Stamford, Democrats controlled the mayor’s seat, and Democrats won again. One of the things

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Esposito Goes Door to Door in Race for Danbury Mayor

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DANBURY — Republican Dean Esposito is running for Mayor, a seat left open for the first time in decades with the retirement of Mark Boughton, after he served ten consecutive terms. In 2019, Boughton won re-election with 8,598 votes to his Democratic opponent’s 7,372.  Esposito serves as chief of staff to the Mayor of Danbury, and previously served five terms as a Danbury City Councilman. He will face off against Democrat Roberto Alves, a technical sales engineer and Danbury City Councilman. The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Esposito about the last few days of his campaign, and what he’s learned from

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Sandra Ruoff Makes Her Case for Re-election to the Guilford Board of Selectmen

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Guilford Selectman Sandra Ruoff, a Democrat, is running for re-election on the ballot alongside Democratic incumbent Louis Federici, incumbent Republicans Susan Renner and Charles Havrda, and Green Party candidate Justin Paglino.  CT Examiner spoke with Ruoff about her bid for reelection, thoughts on Guilford’s Board of Education race, and goals for another term.  This interview has been edited for clarity. How did you decide to run for another term on the Board of Selectmen?   I worked at the Guilford Library for 40 years and was director for 30 years, and in 2017, I was turning 70 and knew I was

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‘I’ve Never Seen an Election Like This:’ Personal Attacks, Campaign Finance Allegations Mar Colchester Race

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COLCHESTER – In the quiet, southeastern Connecticut town of Colchester, voters are used to peaceful local races, with disagreements about where to build sidewalks and how to fill empty storefronts.  But this fall, the race for first selectman has been anything but civil.   “I’ve never seen an election like this,” said Rosemary Coyle, a Democratic member of the Colchester Board of Selectmen who has been in local politics in Colchester since the 1970s. “Republican or Democrat, we’ve always all worked together, there’s never been anything this divisive or offensive.”  Incumbent First Selectwoman Mary Bylone, a Democrat, is facing off against Republican

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Charles Havrda Makes a Case for Re-election as Guilford Selectman

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Guilford Selectman Charles Havrda is running for re-election on the ballot alongside fellow Republican incumbent Susan Renner, incumbent Democrats Louis Federici and Sandra Ruoff, and Green Party candidate Justin Paglino.  CT Examiner spoke with Havrda about his bid for reelection, thoughts on Guilford’s Board of Education race, and goals for another term.  This interview has been edited for clarity. How did you decide to run for another term on the Board of Selectmen?   This is going to be my fourth run, and in the first two terms, I was part of the majority, and we got the high school through,

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Louis Federici Makes a Case for Re-election to the Guilford Board of Selectmen

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Guilford Selectman Louis Federici is running for a second term on the ballot alongside fellow Democratic incumbent Sandra Ruoff, incumbent Republicans Susan Renner and Charles Havrda, and Green Party candidate Justin Paglino.   CT Examiner spoke with Federici, who is also an attorney, about his bid for reelection.  This interview has been edited for clarity. How did you decide to run for another term on the Board of Selectmen?   I love the town, and I feel I can contribute from the inside in a way that’s helpful, and I feel better being involved than watching from the sidelines. I just completed

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Paglino Boosts Clean Energy in Green Party Bid for Guilford Selectman

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Justin Paglino, the Green Party candidate who challenged incumbent Democrat Congresswoman Rosa Delauro last fall, is running for the Guilford Board of Selectmen. Paglino is running against four Board of Selectmen incumbents, Democrats Louis Federici and Sandra Ruoff and Republicans Susan Renner and Charles Havrda.  CT Examiner spoke with Paglino about his run, and policy priorities if elected.  This interview has been edited for clarity. How did you decide to run for local office in Guilford?   My focus in politics often gets drawn to national affairs, but this year, Guilford has been particularly interesting because of our Board of Education

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A Self-Described ‘Extrovert,’ Roberto Alves Takes the Race Door to Door in Danbury

DANBURY — At the local Democratic Party headquarters, mayoral candidate Roberto Alves was preparing to knock on doors, grabbing a bite to eat while checking in with State Sen. Julie Kushner and Democratic Town Committee Chair Andrea Gartner.  His campaign manager, Francesca Capodilupo, walked into the main street office with Alves’ 13-week-old rescue puppy, a playful hound mix named Abigail Barklett, a name inspired by the candidate’s love of The West Wing.  “I wasn’t sleeping anyway,” Alves quips about the decision to adopt a puppy in the home stretch of the mayoral race.  Barklett stayed behind with the campaign team

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Ellington First Selectman Lori Spielman Makes Her Case for Re-Election

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Ellington First Selectwoman Lori Spielman is running for a fourth term leading Ellington, facing off against Democrat Mike Madru, who entered the race last month after the original Democratic nominee, Charlotte Ward, stepped down due to what she described as a personal medical emergency.  Spielman most recently won re-election against Democratic challenger Peggy Busse, who she beat in 2019 with more than 60 percent of the vote.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Spielman about his campaign and priorities if elected. This interview has been edited for clarity. What led you to run for first selectman of Ellington?  I’ve got projects

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Elgin Offers Third Way in Westport Election

Independent candidate TJ Elgin is running for First Selectman of Westport for a second time, facing off against Democratic State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and Republican Jennifer Tooker, who currently serves as selectwoman, for the open seat.  Jim Marpe, the incumbent, is not seeking reelection. Marpe, a Republican, most recently won reelection in 2017 with 50 percent of the vote, compared to his Democratic opponent’s 45 percent and Elgin’s 0.3 percent.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Elgin about his campaign and priorities if elected to the seat. This interview has been edited for clarity. What inspired you to run for First

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Jury Finds Cromwell Liable for Discrimination, Town to Appeal

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A jury in a federal district court in Bridgeport found the Town of Cromwell liable for more than $5 million in damages for discriminating against a nonprofit serving people with disabilities in a decision issued Friday.   Cromwell Town Manager Anthony Salvatore said the town planned to challenge the decision.  “The Town of Cromwell has several viable grounds for appeal and post-trial motions that are currently being prepared, so we can’t comment further,” Salvatore said.  The nonprofit, Gilead Community Services, provides housing to people with mental illnesses and disabilities in Middlesex County, and attempted to establish a community home for six

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Door to Door with Madison First Selectman Peggy Lyons

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MADISON — Walking along Forest Hills Drive, a wooded and winding residential road just two miles from Hammonasset State Park, Madison First Selectman Peggy Lyons went door to door, making her case for reelection.  Lyons said it’s different campaigning as an incumbent. “People now have specific things that they want to ask the incumbent about, rather than just trying to learn who you are,” Lyons said. “Usually it’s positive things, but sometimes it’s not, and then it’s a good way to get a perspective on what problems are affecting voters, and get out of the bubble of just focusing on

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Peter Nystrom Campaigns Door to Door in 19th Run for Office

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After decades in public office, from city council member to state representative to mayor, Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said his favorite method of campaigning is door knocking. “Sometimes, while knocking on doors, you discover a need that you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise,” said Nystrom, recalling a meeting with a resident who invited him into his house to see dramatic water damage from flash flooding in Norwich this summer. In 2017, Nystrom was elected with 57 percent of the vote.   This year, Nystrom is running for a third term in office. The Republican incumbent is facing off against Democrat Mark

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Matt Lesser Makes His Case for Secretary of the State

In June, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced that she would not be running for reelection, opening the door to a slew of candidates expressing interest in the seat.  One of those is Democratic State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown. Three other Democratic candidates, State Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden, State Rep. Hilda Santiago of Meriden, and New Haven Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., have also formed exploratory committees.  In 2018, Merrill won reelection with 55.9 percent of the vote to her Republican opponent’s 42.5 percent. A Republican has not served as Secretary of the State since 1995. But this

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Bruce Wilson Goes Door to Door in Madison First Selectman Race

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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,

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Biden Restores Protections to Marine National Monument off Coast of New England

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On Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden restored protections to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the Atlantic Ocean’s first and only marine national monument. The protections were put in place by President Barack Obama in 2016, but later rolled back by the Trump administration in 2020.  Joining Biden for the proclamation signing on Friday afternoon was Mystic Aquarium President and CEO Stephen Coan, who got the call to travel down to Washington late Thursday night.  “I was so surprised to get the call, and obviously hadn’t made any travel arrangements, so I quickly hurried to do that and

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Advocacy Group Taps Ruben Rodriguez to Push for Hispanic Votes in Connecticut

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The Republican National Hispanic Assembly is launching a new state chapter in Connecticut.  The advocacy organization, which already has chapters in 19 states and in Puerto Rico, asked Waterbury Republican Ruben Rodriguez to lead its statewide effort in Connecticut. Rodriguez previously ran for the seat of the fifth Congressional district and for the Connecticut state legislature.  The assembly’s national treasurer, Santiago Avila said he reached out to Rodriguez about expanding into Connecticut because he saw potential to be more aggressive about courting the Hispanic vote in the state.  “Connecticut has a really big Hispanic base, but Republicans don’t pursue them,”

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Mike Madru Jumps into Ellington Race, Offers a Case for First Selectman

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Mike Madru is challenging Ellington First Selectwoman Lori Spielman. Madru entered the race just a few weeks ago after the original Democratic nominee, Charlotte Ward, stepped down due to what she described as a personal medical emergency.  Spielman has led Ellington for three terms, winning reelection most recently against Democratic challenger Peggy Busse in 2019, with more than 60 percent of the vote.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Madru, an insurance industry professional, about his campaign and priorities if elected. This interview has been edited for clarity. What led you to run for first selectman of Ellington?  The candidate supported

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Ed Chmielewski Makes His Case for First Selectman of Salem

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Republican Ed Chmielewski is running for First Selectman of Salem against Democrat Hugh McKenney for an open seat left be departing incumbent Kevin Lyden, who has instead opted to run for the position of selectman. Lyden served six terms, running unopposed in 2019, as a petitioning candidate against Democrat Sue Sprang in 2017, as a Democrat against Chmielewski in 2015, and as a cross-endorsed candidate in 2013. Lyden won handily, with 69 percent of the vote in 2017 and 65 percent of the vote in 2015.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Chmielewski about his campaign and priorities if elected. This

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Jennifer Tooker Makes a Case for Westport First Selectwoman

Westport Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, a Republican, is running for the job of First Selectwoman, facing off against Democratic State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg for the open seat. Incumbent First Selectman Jim Marpe, who was first elected in 2013 and most recently won reelection in 2017 with 50 percent of the vote, compared to his Democratic opponent’s 45 percent, is not seeking reelection. The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Tooker about her campaign and priorities if elected.  This interview has been edited for clarity. What inspired you to run for First Selectman of Westport?  My husband and I moved to Westport 13 years

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New Haven Symphony Orchestra Returns to Live Performances on October 3

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra returns to live performances at the Shubert Theatre for the fall season beginning October 3, led by Alasdair Neale. Neale, who joined as musical director in 2019, recently renewed his contract for an additional three years, before an expected move to Paris. The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Neale about his hopes for the fall season, reflections on his tenure at the symphony so far, and his decision to move to Europe.  This interview has been edited for clarity. Your fall season starts on October 3. How long has it been since the full orchestra performed

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