Fairfield RTM member 'disillusioned' with state Democrats, changes parties

Hannah Gale (RTM-6) said she changed her party affiliation because of the Connecticut Democratic Party's desire to remove the religious exemption to vaccine mandates.

Hannah Gale (RTM-6) said she changed her party affiliation because of the Connecticut Democratic Party’s desire to remove the religious exemption to vaccine mandates.

Hannah Gale / Contributed photo

FAIRFIELD — A member of the Representative Town Meeting switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican this week.

“As you know, I have been disillusioned for some time with the CT Democratic Party’s leadership regarding a push for legislation to remove the Religious Exemption to vaccination mandates in Connecticut,” Hannah Gale (RTM-6) said in a statement.

She said she felt “very strongly that the right to informed consent for any medical procedure is a sacred human right.” She opposed removing the exemption, because she said there weren’t any other exemptions in the state that were easy to obtain or addressed personal convictions.

Gale said she had observed behavior by Connecticut Democrats in the past she considered to be disrespectful and dismissive of the concerns of parents and constituents opposed to vaccine mandates.

Nancy DiNardo, chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party, did not respond to requests for comment.

“But I have always felt that there was still a place within the Democratic Party to dissent from what has become a party bias against vaccine rights, as there have always been Democrats who stood for human rights in regard to this issue, and in fact, Robert Kennedy Jr., who is vocal on this issue, is a Democrat,” Gale said.

Democratic Town Committee Chair Steven Sheinberg declined to comment.

Acting Republican Town Committee Chair Alex Plitsas said Gale has always had an independent voice and done what she thought was right for her constituents.

“We have a big tent with a diversity of viewpoints and we welcome her to the Republican Party,” he said.

Gale pointed out that State Rep. Jack Hennessy (D-127) and Rep. David Michel (D-146), the only two Democrats on the Public Health Committee to vote against a bill that would remove religious exemptions for mandatory vaccines, were not reappointed to the committee.

“[Their removal] has convinced me that I no longer want to be affiliated with a party that uses its power to pressure dissenting voices to capitulate to party leadership,” she said, adding she did not know why the Democrats seemed so “hell bent” on removing the religious exemption.

Gale said Hennessy and Michel were replaced by State Rep. Liz Linehan (D-103) and State Rep. Josh Elliot (D-88).

Gale noted she must also resign from the DTC and the Democratic caucus of the RTM.

Fairfield’s Registrars of Voters said Gale changed her party affiliation on Monday. Town Clerk Betsy Browne said the change would not impact her ability to hold office.

Gale said she appreciated the consideration from the Fairfield Democrats, who tried to allow space for her viewpoint. She said she regrets leaving her friends within the caucus, with whom she worked on town issues.

“However, I cannot stand by as I watch the Democratic Party become a bully pulpit,” she said.

Joshua.LaBella@hearstmediact.com