“Independent” is a political label that retains an attraction for voters and candidates.
Republican state Rep. John Frey recently showcased his re-election effort’s endorsement by the Independent Party of Connecticut, even as the Independent Party of Ridgefield — once a vocal force in town politics and budget battles — fades out of existence.
“I’m proud to be endorsed by both the Republican and Independent parties and I look forward to serving the residents of our great community,” said Frey, who is seeking his 10th term in the state legislature and also represents Connecticut on the Republican National Committee.
“The Independent Party’s goal of non-partisan problem solving matches the approach I plan to follow if voters again send me to Hartford to be their voice, and it’s the path that we need more often in the legislature to get our state’s economy firing on all cylinders.”
The Independent Party of Connecticut, which endorsed Frey, is a different entity than the Independent Party of Ridgefield — which no longer officially exists, though it is remembered.
Irene and Jeff Burgess were last official custodians of the Independent Party of Ridgefield, which was founded more than two decades ago by William I. Allen and later led by Dom D’Addario and also Tony DiPreta.
It’s been defunct for about two years, according to Irene Burgess.
“What we decided was best was closing it down and letting the two parties duke it out,” Burgess told The Press in the last week of August.
“We ended it probably two years ago, and let it die off by not endorsing candidates,” Burgess said.
“We talked to Barbara Serfilippi and found out the best way to shut it down was to literally not endorse candidates and it would die a natural death,” she said. “It had no money. The only money it has was $20 we each donated. We donated it to an animal charity or something.”
There had been an effort to keep it going, she said.
“We put in a notice in The Press, asking for a caucus. Nobody showed up,” she said.
“There were like 70 members … We did a mass mailing, and called people: Nobody wanted to help.”
It seemed better to disband the party than carry on the pretence, she said, cross-endorsing candidates put up by the Republicans and Democrats.
“If you remember, the Independent Party garnered 500, 600 votes in each election, for people it endorsed,” Burgess said. “‘Jeff and I thought it was completely unethical for us to be picking candidates and them getting 500 votes, when it was just us picking a candidate and nobody else wanted to be involved.”
Largest ‘other’ party
Of over 18,000 voters registered in Ridgefield as of the last week of August, the largest groups are more than 6,000 unaffiliated voters, as well as more than 5,000 each of Republicans and Democrats, according to the registrars of voters office.
But the 176 members of the Independent Party were the largest group among 223 Ridgefield voters registered as members of “other” political parties. That breakdown was: 176 Independents; 36 Libertarians; 11 Greens.
“The Independent Party of Connecticut and Independent Party of Ridgefield have nothing to do with each other, other than their names,” Burgess said.
Still, people confuse the two — as she learned recently.
“When it was on Frey’s Facebook page that he had been endorsed by the Independent Party of Connecticut, I was at Stop and Shop and three people came up to me and said: ‘You guys are endorsing Frey?’” Burgess said.
“…The Independent Party of Connecticut is, but the Independent Party of Ridgefield is not — it doesn’t even exist,” Burgess said. “And if it did exist, it wouldn’t have endorsed John.”
Frey’s release said the Independent Party is the third-largest political party in Connecticut and has endorsed several candidates across the state this year. It quotes the state chairman.
“We believe John will be an independent-minded voice in the state legislature seeking an accessible and responsible state government that works for all residents,” said Michael Duff, state chairman of the Connecticut Independent Party. “John’s views on government spending, taxes, overall budget reform and the dire need for economic growth reflect our goals. We enthusiastically endorse John Frey’s candidacy, and look forward to his victory in November.”
Members of the Independent Party of Connecticut were at the town’s SummerFest, collecting signatures to get on Ridgefield’s ballot, endorsing Frey.
Statewide news sources, including the Connecticut Mirror, report that there is a split within the Independent Party of Connecticut, with factions from Waterbury and Danbury competing for and disputing control of the state party.
Asked about this, Frey said he had the backing of both groups.