Greenwich Democrats rally around Krumeich for first selectman

Selectman Drew Marzullo and first selectman candidate Beth Krumeich will be leading the Democratic ticket this fall after Ms. Krumeich’s late candidacy was unanimously approved at the Democratic Town Committee’s annual picnic. — Ken Borsuk photo

Selectman Drew Marzullo and first selectman candidate Beth Krumeich will be leading the Democratic ticket this fall after Ms. Krumeich’s late candidacy was unanimously approved at the Democratic Town Committee’s annual picnic.
— Ken Borsuk photo

Looking to put behind weeks of uncertainty and controversy behind them, the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee (DTC) rallied behind a ticket for the fall elections now led by Beth Krumeich.

Ms. Krumeich, a former vice chairman of the party as well as past president of the Greenwich League of Women Voters, was a dramatic late entry into the race, announcing her candidacy for first selectman in the middle of the DTC’s annual picnic on Sunday that launches its fall campaigns. Ms. Krumeich will now challenge incumbent Republican First Selectman Peter Tesei as he seeks a fourth term.

The party went into the event not knowing if it would even have a candidate, but, after an impromptu meeting, Ms. Krumeich was unanimously endorsed by the party’s executive committee, and DTC Chairman Frank Farricker said that Democrats were now going into the election unified and would prevail.

“The people of Greenwich deserve a contested race for first selectman,” Ms. Krumeich said as she announced her candidacy. “I think Peter Tesei is a fine man with a wonderful family, but Peter is a member of the status quo for many years and is not likely to raise the issues or make the changes we need to improve our town. We need a forum to raise the important issues for today and tomorrow. How can we make our town better? Too often good ideas have been allowed to languish for lack of initiative and because it would mean it would have to change the way we do business.”

Ms. Krumeich’s emergence as a candidate came after weeks of frantic searching for a Democratic candidate for first selectman. On Sunday, Mr. Farricker confirmed he had come close to running himself, setting up a repeat of the 2007 election, but had chosen not to for family reasons. Former Board of Estimate and Taxation member Bill Kelly had also circled around a run and David Rafferty, president of the Old Greenwich Association and the Democrats’ candidate last year for the 151st District in the state legislature, had also been approached. Both men ultimately passed, leaving the party without an endorsed candidate to lead the ticket until Ms. Krumeich suddenly threw her hat in the ring.

“We couldn’t be any luckier,” Mr. Farricker said to the Post after the candidacy became official. “Beth Krumeich is a very formidable candidate with a huge depth of knowledge about the town and has the experience people are looking for. She’s a very strong candidate to lead this party into November.”

Part of the unity Mr. Farricker called for involved the support of Stephanie Paulmeno, who had originally been the Democrats’ choice to challenge the incumbent Mr. Tesei as he seeks a fourth term in November. However, that was when the controversy started.

The Post and other media outlets began receiving letters questioning Ms. Paulmeno’s stance on rape and comments she made about a proposed sex-offenders-free zone in town, citing a May 9, 2010 story in the Greenwich Time. Ms. Paulmeno called this a “horrific smear campaign” that distorted her views and said she did not remember giving an interview to the Time for the story. The paper has stood by its reporting.

Ultimately, the DTC’s Executive Committee asked Ms. Paulmeno to step aside and she said she would, but, as of Sunday’s picnic, had not formally withdrawn her name with the town clerk. She told the Post that, unless a viable alternative could be found, she would stay on the ballot. But, after Ms. Krumeich announced she would run, Ms. Paulmeno said she had her “full support.”

But while the drama surrounding the top of the ticket dominated the proceedings, the DTC also made sure to shine the light on the rest of its candidates. Selectman Drew Marzullo is seeking his third term on the board and Mr. Farricker said he didn’t believe there was a more popular or more responsive office holder in town.

Tax Collector candidate Rick Novakowski and Board of Education candidates Samarpana Tamm, Debbie Appelbaum and Laura Erickson, who are running for two spots, all spoke briefly, and the Democratic candidates for the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) were also on hand. During her remarks, Ms. Krumeich called for sound ideas to be turned into projects to better Greenwich and discussed the need to embrace long-term financing for certain capital projects, which has been a priority of the BET’s Democratic caucus.

BET members William Finger and Randall Huffman echoed this in their remarks, saying that a vote for Democrats this year would allow for a change in philosophy on the finance board. Calling this “critical” for taxpayers, Mr. Huffman noted that if Democrats get more votes than Republicans for the BET it can take the chairmanship and focus on infrastructure maintenance and investment. Mr. Huffman said that the town keeps spending money while infrastructure falls into disrepair and that needs to change.

“We can make a real difference in this town if we are the ones with the controlling vote,” Mr. Huffman said. “All these years, through what I think is bad advice and bad thinking, we haven’t done any long-term financing except for some of our sewers and finally Nathaniel Witherell. That’s terrible. We’ve been advised over and over by long-term experts, you always want to have the long-term assets you build protected and funded by longer term financing.”

There was also time for key Democratic officeholders in the state and in Washington, D.C., to shine. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), both of whom are town residents,  spoke at the picnic, as did Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

An expanded version of this article will be available Friday at Greenwich-post.com.

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