Republicans tout records as election nears

Greenwich Republican Town Committee Chairman Jim Campbell helps fire up the base at the annual clambake as he touts the members of the Republican ticket, including, in background, from left, First Selectman Peter Tesei, Tax Collector Tod Laudonia, BET Chairman Michael Mason and Town Clerk Carmella Budkins. — Ken Borsuk photo

Greenwich Republican Town Committee Chairman Jim Campbell helps fire up the base at the annual clambake as he touts the members of the Republican ticket, including, in background, from left, First Selectman Peter Tesei, Tax Collector Tod Laudonia, BET Chairman Michael Mason and Town Clerk Carmella Budkins.
— Ken Borsuk photo

With a little more than a month until Election Day, Greenwich Republicans are not only looking ahead to this year’s municipal election, but next year’s electoral battles for Congress and Hartford.

At the Cos Cob Republican Club’s 82nd annual Republican clambake, which serves as the kickoff to campaign season for the party in town, spirits were high as town members of the grand ol’ party talked politics and dug into lobster and steak at Greenwich Point. And with the party still enjoying a large advantage in registered voters in town over the Democrats and popular First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman David Theis leading the ballot in the fall, the good mood was expected.

“We are blessed because from town clerk to tax collector to selectman to first selectman, we have people who have served us for years and are willing to serve us again,” Republican Town Committee (RTC) Chairman Jim Campbell said. “It’s not easy to do this. It’s every day, 365 days a year. They love this town. They’re not doing it for the money,  that’s for sure. But we are grateful for their service, for their leadership and for the fact that they are here and running for another term.”

Mr. Tesei is looking for a fourth term as Greenwich’s top elected officer and he and Mr. Theis have served together since 2009. Mr. Campbell called it “one of the most successful political partnerships in our town’s history” and even though they are both heavily favored going into November, Mr. Theis pledged that “we will run like we are 10 points down.”

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Mr. Theis said, stressing to assembled Republicans that they should not split their votes and vote for the party down the line on the ballot. “Our goal is simple at this point. We need to run up the score so much so that next time no one dares sit on the field of play against us. It almost happened this time and it’s very important for the town that we continue our present course of action. This doesn’t mean that we should be mean-spirited or vindictive. The voters don’t respond to that. We will run a positive campaign and stay above the fray and on message. We have the best candidates and we need you to work together so we can be re-elected.”

Mr. Theis said Greenwich was on its way to being the “town by the Sound that everyone wants to live in,” thanks to prudent and disciplined leadership, meaning having to make tough choices about what the town can afford. He contrasted this to efforts by Greenwich Democrats to make the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) election a key issue as they’ve called for long-term borrowing to allow for increased infrastructure investment and other capital spending.

“We have to live within our means,” Mr. Theis said. “That’s what government needs to do going forward. We’ve done it here, but it’s something our friends across the aisle don’t often agree with. But when you have a credit card and you max out on it, they charge you 15%. So when they say they’re only going to charge you 3%, it doesn’t mean you should go out and spend more.”

More specifics of the party’s message came from Mr. Tesei, who is set to be honored in Norwalk next week as the first selectman of the year for Connecticut. He talked about the prioritization of life safety services in town, emergency medical response, quality schools, and accountability for performance in them. Noting recent controversies in the district, Mr. Tesei said there had to be a commitment to neighborhood schools and for parents who buy a house to send their children to a specific school to know they will be able to remain there.

Mr. Tesei also talked about efforts in the state to push for regionalization, which critics say helps cities in Connecticut at the expense of towns like Greenwich. He said the current path being pushed by Democrats in Hartford “could not continue” because, having exhausted other forms of resources, “they are coming for our local resources to redistribute them.”

“Make no mistake, the challenges today are greater than ever,” Mr. Tesei said. “We are experiencing pressures from the federal and state level. But locally we still maintain the reins over our town government. As I’ve said in the past, this is not a government of ‘me.’ This is a government of ‘we.’ And we are getting up every day and putting the interests of Greenwich first.”

The Republicans, like the Democrats, have a competitive race for the Board of Education this year as incumbent member Peter Sherr is being challenged by Brian Peldunas and Peter Bernstein for the party’s two spots on the board this year. Mr. Peldunas and Mr. Bernstein have the RTC’s endorsement, but all three men were at the clambake and had visible supporters with them. Republicans also have a full slate of Board of Estimate and Taxation candidates on the ballot, and Town Clerk Carmella Budkins is running unopposed for a new term.

Republican Tax Collector Tod Laudonia, who is running for a third term, does have competition though, as he is being challenged by Democrat Rick Novakowski. Mr. Campbell accused Democrats of “nasty campaigning” during the 2009 and 2011 campaigns against Mr. Laudonia but said he “takes a punch and just keeps going.”

“After four years of achieving the highest tax collection rate in the state of Connecticut, I don’t think there’s going to be any doubt in voters’ minds about who deserves to be the tax collector yesterday, today and tomorrow serving the town of Greenwich,” Mr. Campbell said.

In brief remarks, Mr. Laudonia said it has been an honor to serve Greenwich for the past four years and he was looking forward to the election.

“Someone said to me a couple of days ago, ‘Do you realize you’ve collected so far in your career over a billion dollars for the town of Greenwich?’” Mr. Laudonia said. “That’s a sizable amount of money, and when I go across the state and speak to other tax collectors, they’re always kind of amazed how much money we bring in and how much we do in the town of Greenwich for the number of people that live here. We are the envy of everybody, not just in the tax collection field, but in our first selectman and our Board of Estimate and Taxation. Everything we do in the town of Greenwich is looked at by the rest of the state, and I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

The event got a boost from the weather, too, as blue skies, warm sun and a cool breeze from the water made it a perfect day to be outdoors. In addition to the speeches, there was live music from the local band Riversideways and a bouncy castle set up for kids. Serving in a dual role as both candidate and president of the Cos Cob Republican Club’s clambake committee, Mr. Theis called it an event where “good weather and good people come together for a good cause” and thanked all the volunteers who had helped put it together.

While they did not speak during the event, there was a full roster of candidates looking to press the flesh and talk issues with Greenwich’s Republican loyalists. Congressional candidate Dan Debicella, who is seeking a rematch of his unsuccessful 2010 campaign with Cos Cob resident U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District) in 2014, was on hand, as was the full slate of candidates for governor next year. Greenwich resident Tom Foley conceivably could have the hometown advantage as he seeks the party’s nomination to run against incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, whom he narrowly lost to in 2010, but there were other candidates seeking Greenwich’s support, too.

State Sen. John McKinney (R-28th), Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26th) were also at the event, as was state Rep. Penny Bacchioci (R-52nd), who is running for lieutenant governor next year. And while the focus was on the municipal candidates, speakers at the clambake made it clear that next year’s election is very much on the radar for Greenwich Republicans.

“Next year is going to be our year to replace Jim Himes in Washington,” Mr. Campbell said. “But next year isn’t just going to be about Washington. The big prize for us as Republicans here in Connecticut is to make Dan Malloy a one-term wonder as governor of Connecticut.”

 

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