RTM candidate isn’t a town resident; withdraws from ballot
FAIRFIELD —A Democratic Representative Town Meeting member has withdrawn from the ballot after it was discovered she no longer lives in town.
Jennifer Hochberg-Toller sent an email to the Town Clerk Thursday morning taking her name off the ballot in District 4. Town Clerk Betsy Browne said she has not received any letter of resignation from the RTM from Hochberg-Toller, or from her husband, John Toller, who is a Justice of the Peace. The last meeting of this current RTM term was held Monday.
Republicans say Hochberg-Toller’s move to Bridgeport’s Black Rock neighborhood wasn’t recent, though they just learned about it.
“We just heard about this on Monday night,” Republican Town Committee Chairman James Millington said adding it is their understanding that Hochberg-Toller and her husband moved in 2016.
In a press release, Democratic Town Committee Chairman Steve Sheinberg said, “At the request of DTC leadership, effective today, Ms. Hochberg-Toller has withdrawn her name for the upcoming election and resigned her seat on the RTM."
According to Sheinberg, the DTC found out about the change of address from Republican leadership on Wednesday. “Although Ms. Hochberg-Toller had been living at her parents’ home in Fairfield, and has continued to stay there intermittently, it is no longer her primary address,” Sheinberg said. “Our town charter is clear: any elected official or candidate for a town office must have a primary address in Fairfield.”
Sheinberg said it is his understanding that though she still sometimes stayed at her parents’ address, she moved to Bridgeport in August of 2016.
Registrar of Voters Matthew Waggner said they have not yet decided whether to reprint the ballots for District 4. State officials have said the town can reprint new ballots, blackout Hochberg-Toller’s name, or edit the election software so that any votes for Hochberg-Toller are not counted.
Hochberg-Toller’s name has been blacked out on absentee ballots, Browne said, adding that anyone in District 4 who has already voted by absentee can come in and get a new ballot. Should they choose to cast a new ballot, their original ballot will be destroyed.
Hochberg-Toller could not be reached for comment. Both she and her husband list the Church Hill Road address of Hochberg-Toller’s parents as their address.
Millington said when he first learned that Hochberg-Toller had allegedly moved out of town, he tried to get in touch with both her and Sheinberg. He then contacted First Selectman Mike Tetreau, a Democrat, who Millington said was apparently as surprised as he was to learn Hochberg-Toller had moved.
“A lot of times, these things are rumors and just not true,” Millington said. “I got a hold of Mike Tetreau and he called me back and confirmed, much to his surprise, she was, in fact, living in Bridgeport.” He said both he and Tetreau at first thought the move was recent, “but it appears that she has been living in Bridgeport for quite some time”
Millington said not only was Hochberg-Toller on the election ballot but served and voted on the RTM while she was a Bridgeport resident. Her husband is one of the complainants in the special election lawsuit.
He said it is his understanding that the DTC is conducting an internal investigation to determine who, if anyone, knew about the move. “It’s rather bizarre that no one on the DTC knew that she was living in Bridgeport,” Millington said.
Sheinberg said it does not appear that anyone on the DTC knew about the move, but added they are looking into the matter further.
As for the RTC, Millington said they are still looking into the matter, and said someone will definitely be filing a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
He said a similar case in Bridgeport resulted in the candidate being charged with election fraud. Millington said all candidates sign a state form attesting to the fact that they are a town resident, and live in the district in which they are running.
“This is a pretty serious situation,” Millington said.
With the withdrawal of Hochberg-Toller, at least one Republican is guaranteed a seat in District 4, since it is too late for Democrats to put up a replacement candidate.