Looking ahead to fall, intriguing candidates emerge

Greenwich-Voices-DadakisGet ready. Both political parties are gearing up for mid-July nominating meetings for the fall elections.

Republicans are solidly behind incumbent First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman Dave Theis. Both are proven vote-getters and Tesei’s widespread appeal has shown few signs of diminishing. Two years ago, he won a third term by more than two to one, increasing his margin from 2009.

Democrats have popular incumbent Selectman Drew Marzullo lining up again. Due to Greenwich’s strange election rules and the Tesei-Theis popularity, Marzullo’s road to election is different because the person he likely needs to defeat is whomever Democrats nominate for first selectman.

Having fielded strong candidates who lost badly in the past two elections — Lin Lavery and John Blankley — no Democrats are clamoring to take on Tesei. Some speculate the party won’t even field a candidate, but that embarrassment to party leaders is unlikely. Even at the height of five-term First Selectman John Margenot’s popularity, Democrats always found someone.

There’s speculation about Stephen Ng, who was trounced by Town Clerk Carmella Budkins in 2011. Ng is a nice guy, but was way out of his depth with Budkins. It would border on embarrassing for him to run against Tesei, so it is hoped Democrats won’t do that to him.

Greenwich’s bizarre election rules mean the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) will be elected by the Republican and Democratic town committees, not the voters. Republicans have attempted repeatedly to empower voters with this decision but Democrats refuse, preferring their mandated 50% of seats rather than giving electors a choice.

And while the selectman’s race has been quiet, more action is developing with BET Republicans than I’d originally predicted. I’d expected the status quo, but Greg Bedrosian is leaving after just one term and Budget Committee Chairman Joe Pellegrino, who had ruminated since January whether to run, has chosen to throw in the towel after two terms. Pellegrino was an extremely effective spokesman for Republicans and will be missed.

Now hopefuls are contacting RTC members for support. Candidates include town native Jon Redmond, a financial wizard likely to bring strong fiscal restraint to the job. Another, RTM Budget Overview Committee Chairman Bill Drake, has substantial budget experience strongly focused on limiting town indebtedness, not to mention an accomplished heritage as the nephew of one of Greenwich’s most distinguished BET chairmen, Phil Drake.

Also running is former Board of Education Chairman Nancy Weissler. Ms. Weissler, a charming person and solid candidate, works hard and successfully balanced demands of parents against fiscal realities when on the BOE. Yet it remains to be seen if Republicans see her tenure there as a pro or a con.

Rumors abound that former First Selectman Jim Lash may enter the fray as well. There were similar rumors last cycle, but nothing happened. There is precedent. Margenot returned to the BET after being first selectman. Lash would hit the ground running and would certainly be the most financially skilled BET member.

However, there are concerns about his embracing too expensive capital projects, with critics pointing to the enormity of the police station. How effectively he and Tesei would interact is also on people’s minds.

Democrats John Blankley and Frank Farricker are vying for the one open seat to be left by Bob Brady, who’s not running again. Both Blankley and Farricker are Democratic leaders and if both achieve BET seats, it means an incumbent gets dropped. The early betting was on Bill Finger or Mary Lee Kiernan, but recent handicapping puts Jeff Ramer in that mix, too.

Some Democrats have indicated dissatisfaction with Farricker, who is the party chairman, saying his candidacy is nowhere near a lock.

But we’re seven weeks away and lots can still happen.

 

Ed Dadakis is former chairman of the Republican Town Committee and has spent more than 30 years serving on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). He may be reached at [email protected]

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