Getting ready for local election season

The local election season, thankfully far shorter than the presidential variety, will be concentrated over the next few weeks with The Day, in conjunction with other organizations, offering a series of debates to help inform voters.

In addition, Day staff writers are providing profiles on candidates for mayor, selectmen, councils and boards of education throughout our region. These candidate profiles, offered as part of our daily news coverage, are compiled in a special “2019 Debates & Election Coverage” section that can be accessed from the top of theday.com homepage. You can find our debate schedule there.

In other words, our readers have ample opportunities to become informed about their choices on Election Day, Nov. 5.

Our debate season began Sept. 26 at Waterford High School, where a large and courteous audience witnessed a vigorous but respectful policy discussion between the candidates for first selectman, Democratic candidate Beth Sabilia and Republican candidate Rob Brule, currently a selectman. You can view the debate on theday.com, as will be case for all the debates in which The Day is involved.

These local debates and the associated campaigns can be an antidote of sorts for the cynicism and tribalism that dominates the Washington scene. While politics can be a tough game at any level of government, our local elections tend to be less ideological and more focused on the challenges confronting communities — taxation, managing development, providing a quality education, housing and public services among them. The differences come in how to prioritize and address those challenges, and the experience candidates bring to the task. This is where the debates and campaign coverage can help inform voters.

The debate schedule resumes Thursday featuring the three candidates competing for mayor of New London. Doors open at 5 p.m. at the C.B. Jennings International Magnet School, with the debate beginning at 6 p.m. The League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut, which is providing timekeepers for many of the local debates, is co-sponsoring the event with The Day.

Democratic incumbent Mayor Michael Passero will faceoff against his Republican challenger, City Councilor Martin T. Olsen Jr., and Green Party candidate Frida Berrigan.

We were disappointed to learn last week that Superior Court Judge Harry E. Calmar had rejected the appeal of Berrigan and the Greens to have the candidate’s name on the ballot. As a result, Berrigan is running as a write-in candidate. The LWV and The Day agreed to include Berrigan in the debate, having invited her to participate before learning her name would not be on the ballot due to a technical mix-up.

The Secretary of the State’s Office never received the letter certifying Berrigan as the Green Party candidate, though it did have on record her petition papers. The party chair said the letter was sent by standard mail. Given it was a paperwork problem — Berrigan had the adequate number of petition signatures and the party had endorsed her — we had hoped Judge Calmar would place her name on the ballot. Calmar, however, took the position that law and precedent prohibited him from doing so.

On Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. the Preston Plains Middle School will host a debate between the candidates for first selectman — Republican Gregory S. Moran Sr. and Democrat Sandra Allyn-Gauthier.

After 24 years as first selectman, Robert Congdon, a Republican, is not seeking re-election.

The Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring an Oct. 23 debate at Old Lyme Town Hall, where a former Republican first selectman, Timothy Griswold, is seeking to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Bonnie Reemsnyder. That debate begins at 7 p.m.

While format details are still being worked out, Montville High School will be the site of an Oct. 24 debate between the town’s incumbent Democratic Mayor Ron McDaniel and his Republican challenger, Tom McNally, chair of the Town Council. That debate also starts at 7 p.m.

The 7 p.m., Oct. 28 debate at the Stonington Community Center will feature all four candidates for the Board of Selectmen — the first selectmen candidates, Republican John Prue and the unaffiliated Danielle Chesebrough, who is endorsed by the Democrats; and selectmen candidates Deborah Downie, a Republican, and June Strunk, a Democrat.

Finally, on Oct. 29 at East Lyme High School, the candidates for first selectman in that town will debate — incumbent Mark Nickerson, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Camille Alberti. That debate begins at 7 p.m.

Suggested questions can be submitted on our webpage at https://www.theday.com/section/debates2019/ or by emailing Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere at p.choiniere@theday.com.

We look forward to seeing you at the debates.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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