This year’s campaign wasn’t the same without Malcolm Pray

Greenwich-Voices-DadakisElection 2013 is over and, to no one’s surprise, First Selectman Peter Tesei easily won a fourth term.

Political observers in town are already wondering if he’ll run again and challenge five-term First Selectman John Margenot’s title of longest-serving Greenwich first selectman. Tesei clearly loves the job and voters continue to respond to his message.

Tesei’s victory margin continues to grow as he captured 73% of the vote this year. Usually a chief executive’s margin declines over time because people tend to assign blame for everything even if it’s outside their purview. Tesei doesn’t dodge issues and has shown himself adept at both politics and governance.

Tax Collector Tod Laudonia won a clear victory, comfortably receiving 57% of the vote. Laudonia’s tenure had a shaky start with two (relatively) close elections, but clearly his hard work has cemented his relationship with voters.

Democrats and Republicans battled themselves for Board of Education seats with both petition candidates getting elected. The results must frustrate Brian Peldunas who came in third among Republicans but outpolled Democrat Debbie Appelbaum, who was seated. Does it make any sense that a candidate with fewer votes is seated over a candidate with more votes?

The Republican BOE campaign was especially volatile. Greenwich should find a way to select party candidates without having to have a primary on Election Day. Primaries for all other offices are held months before November’s elections, but not for this board. The BOE selection process needs to change so Republicans and Democrats aren’t fighting among themselves during the general election campaign.

But as I reflect on this campaign, it’s clear something is missing and that’s Malcolm Pray.

Malcolm was serving as Tesei’s honorary campaign chairman, a position he had held since Tesei first ran, when he died in August. He was someone all Republicans depended on. Ever since I became active in Greenwich politics, he was the go-to guy for advice, support and access for Republican candidates locally, statewide and nationally. Republicans frequently gathered during campaigns at Malcolm’s home to support their candidates, but not this year.

In the days after Malcolm’s death, there was a palpable sense of loss throughout town. Practically everyone I spoke with had special Malcolm memories. He clearly left his mark on Greenwich.

I started working with Malcolm when I became chairman of the Young Grand Old Party of Greenwich. He offered to open his home for an evening with the candidates for our members. I never could’ve imagined then the friendship that would develop between me, a 20-something young Republican, and an auto magnate. Malcolm continued to host YGOP events annually for the next three decades and he’d always introduce himself as the oldest young Republican, which never failed to get a laugh from the crowd. In fact, the day he had surgery we had a meeting scheduled with YGOP leadership which he insisted go on.

But Malcolm was about much more than Republican politics. What I’ve taken away from our friendship was his deep, abiding commitment to all young people. It wasn’t just young Republicans. It was evident everywhere — in the Boys & Girls Club, the Boy Scouts and the Pray Achievement Center, where children saw Malcolm demonstrate firsthand that with hard work and focus their future is unlimited.

Numerous Greenwich citizens called Malcolm their friend and each has their own special Malcolm memories. But Malcolm left much more than memories. He leaves an amazing legacy, which lives on for thousands of young men and women who have already become better people because of his leadership, teachings and generosity.

There are thousands and thousands of other young people who Malcolm will never meet, yet will have fuller dreams and greater success because of his vision with the Pray Achievement Center.

Well done, Malcolm, and thank you.

 

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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