Paulmeno ends candidacy for first selectman, blames ‘smear campaign’

UPDATED MONDAY 9:45 P.M. — Bowing to pressure from within the Democratic Party in response to what she called a “horrific smear campaign” based around alleged comments about sexual assault and rape, Stephanie Paulmeno has ended her run for first selectman.

On Monday afternoon, Ms. Paulmeno sent out an email to members of the Democratic Town Committee and supporters, saying she would no longer pursue Greenwich’s top elected office.

“I’m disappointed in the process of how all of this played out,” Ms. Paulmeno told the Post Monday evening. “I wasn’t looking to run for this office. I was a temporary candidate when this started. But the more support I got allowed me to get more and more into this. I would have enjoyed the run. I’m disappointed because my character is being badly maligned.”

Her departure from the race, only  a week after she officially decided came after a controversy flared over statements she is alleged to have given to the Greenwich Time in a May 10, 2010 story about a proposed ban on sex offenders entering designated areas of town.

Ms. Paulmeno, who was then a member of the Representative Town Meeting, was one of many who spoke out against the proposal, which did not end up going forward. In the story, Ms. Paulmeno is quoted speaking about her son, who is a registered sex offender after a plea bargain to a charge of attempted assault of a woman in Nevada where he broke into her apartment while she was showering. She says in the story, that a drunken incident could haunt a person’s life forever and attempted to differentiate between different kinds of sex offenders.

“I do believe no is no,” Ms. Paulmeno is quoted as saying. “(But) someone who has committed a rape is far different from someone who has committed a date rape. Someone who’s taking a picture is far different from someone who has molested a child.”

Ms. Paulmeno said she has requested a tape of that interview but was told that only notes of it exist. She said that she does not believe that there is a difference between a date rape and any kind of rape. Ms Paulmino told the Post on Monday that her position is that there is a difference between a violent rape and statutory rape where the sex is consensual but the man could end up being placed on a sex offender list if convicted of the charge.

In the past 10 days, the Post and other media outlets have received letters demanding Ms. Paulmeno respond to the comments in the Time‘s story and strongly criticizing her for allegedly making them. While she said she still had a lot of supporters in town urging her to keep running, Ms. Paulmeno said she didn’t want to do anything to damage the other party and that she was being told this could end up creating more scrutiny and negative attention toward her family.

Ms. Paulmeno said this was a “smear campaign” and that her position on this issue as well as what happened to her son were well known prior to her run as first selectman. She said she did not recall giving the interview to the Time in which she is quoted in the story.

“I think the better story is why there has been such a concerted effort to smear me on something upon which my position has been known and publicly stated and supported for so many years,” Ms. Paulmeno said in an email to the Post.

Party leaders had asked her to step aside after a Sunday meeting but she did not make the final call until Monday. Democratic Town Committee Chairman Frank Farricker said Monday night that the party’s executive committee met and voted unanimously to accept Ms. Paulmeno’s withdrawal.

“We thank her and appreciate what she’s done,” Mr. Farricker said, referring also to Ms. Paulmeno’s decision to enter the race in the first place.

At its nominating caucus in July, Greenwich Democrats faced the prospect of not having a candidate to put up against popular incumbent Republican First Selectman Peter Tesei, who is running for a fourth term. At the very end of the meeting, Ms. Paulmeno volunteered to act as a stand in candidate, insuring the party would have someone, with the intention of withdrawing by Sept. 1 if another candidate emerged. In the weeks that followed, Ms. Paulmeno said she received so much encouragement that she decided to stay in even though a second candidate did make themselves available.

Now it seems likely that Greenwich Democrats will turn to that second candidate, who has not been publicly disclosed yet. Mr. Farricker told the Post that a committee was being formed to seek a new nominee.

“We believe we will have a candidate and have this settled by Friday,” Mr. Farricker said.

The Post will have extended coverage in its Aug. 29 edition.


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