With few real contests on Fairfield ballot, low voter turnout expected
Without a candidate for a top townwide office on the ballot for Tuesday's municipal election, there's been little drama this campaign season -- aside from a video using copyrighted photos without permission, a dust-up between the two registrars that led to one slapping the other and police confiscating some roadside campaign signs.
The actual campaigns themselves have been quiet, perhaps because minority political representation rules guarantee that most candidates for seats on the boards of Education and Finance, as well as the two zoning panels, will be elected to the posts they seek. That factor and the lack of excitement generated by a first selectman contest -- incumbent Michael Tetreau is at the midpoint of a four-year term -- could translate into pretty dismal voter turnout Tuesday. In 2007, the terms for Board of Selectmen and town clerk were extended from two- to four-year terms.
In 2009, the first municipal election without a first selectman battle, the voter turnout was 27.7 percent -- 10,135 out of the 36,517 people registered to vote. In 2007, with a traditional "top of the ticket" campaign, turnout was 14,079 voters out of 33,447, or 42.1 percent.
The town's charter limits the number of candidates from each party that can be elected to the Board of Education this year to two. There are four open spots. The Republicans chose to run just two candidates. The Democrats opted to nominate four, though one has since withdrawn.
That means the GOP's candidates -- John Llewellyn and Eileen Liu-McCormack -- are shoo-ins to be on the board even before the votes are tallied. For Llewellyn, that means on the same day he's elected to the school board, there will be an FOI hearing in Hartford on a complaint he filed against the school board.
"There are pros and cons to running more candidates than one can win in a particular race," Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ellery Plotkin said. Having three Democrats running when only two can win does create a race among the party members, Plotkin said. "The benefit to this approach is that it gives the voters a choice of candidates, whereas the alternative clearly does not."
He said the democratic process inherent in elections to is to give voters a choice. "This provides incentive to voters to actually come out to vote, as their vote can make a difference," Plotkin said. "In the end, we believe it is better to preserve the democratic process of giving voters a choice of candidates, as opposed to nominating just the two candidates who simply could not lose."
By nominating more candidates than are guaranteed election, Plotkin said, it was a case of placing the process over the party's self-interest "for the good of the town."
The Democrats have a nominating convention whereby only members of the DTC can vote to nominate candidates. The Republican caucus is open to all registered Republicans in town, whether or not they are members of the Republican Town Committee.
"Our goal as a party is not to create a campaign of Republicans running against other Republicans," RTC Chairman James Millington said. He said there were four candidates for the school board in this summer's caucus.
"All Republicans were provided an opportunity to come out to the caucus and vote," Millington said. "Eileen Liu-McCormack and John Llewellyn were chosen by the GOP voters to be our candidates."
Of the 10,735 Republican voters eligible to cast ballots in the July caucus, 589 Republicans -- or 5.48 percent -- did.
Millington said he believes the Town Charter, in respect to the Board of Education elections, is flawed. Since each party can only win the two seats it already holds, "there is no way in an off-term election for us to ever change the majority on the BOE."
Voters' choices in the Board of Finance race only come into play in the race between Democrat Catherine Albin and petitioning candidate Thomas Bremer, who although registered as a Democrat is running as an independent candidate. Both are running to finish out a four-year term that was vacated by Eileen Gaffney last year and is currently being served by Albin.
There are three candidates -- two Republicans and one Democrat -- for the three six-year sets that are on the ballot: Democrat Bob Stone, an incumbent, incumbent Republican Mary LeClerc and Republican David Becker.
Republican James Walsh is running unopposed to fill an unexpired vacancy for two years. Walsh was appointed to the Finance Board to replace Kevin Kiley, who was elected to the Board of Selectmen in 2011.
On the Town Plan and Zoning Commission ballot, both parties are running two candidates for three four-year seats, and for a single two-year term, one candidate has been nominated by each party. To complete the two years remaining on a vacant TPZ seat's term, each party has nominated one candidate.
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