Political process is revamped by the virus

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Raucous caucuses in crowded rooms will give way — and nominating authority — to virtual town committee meetings over electronic media.

Connecticut’s presidential primary has been further delayed. Already pushed from April 28 to June 2 in the public health crisis, the primary has now been rescheduled for August 11, six days before Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

Local caucuses and conventions will be replaced with virtual town committee meetings and conventions due concerns about spreading the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes. Deaths from COVID-19 in Connecticut surpassed 1,000, totaling 1,036 on Friday, April 17, as COVID-19 cases in Connecticut reached 16,809.

The Aug. 11 primary date that Governor Ned Lamont and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill agreed upon will coincide with other primaries, including General Assembly, congressional and local offices.

“To protect the health and safety of voters, poll workers, and the most vulnerable populations, it just makes most sense to extend the date out to August,” Lamont said in a statement. “I appreciate the continued contact with Secretary Merrill, as well as all of our town clerks and registrars who’ve worked with us each step of the way through this crisis to respond and make necessary adjustments.”

And under an executive order from Governor Ned Lamont and an agreement between the statewide leaders of both Republican and Democratic parties, there are plans in the works to conduct all nominating of candidates for the November 2020 elections by virtual meetings through electronic means.

Nominating caucuses and conventions for congressional, state representative and state senate seats will either have their duties passed to Republican and Democratic town committees, or in multi-town districts be held virtual events held through electronic media.

There are no statewide offices up for election this fall.

With the announced retirement of longtime state Rep. John Frey, Ridgefield’s 111th district seat in Hartford is a focus of attention.

Selectman Bob Hebert is seeking the Republican nomination for the 111th seat, and Democrats do not yet have a publicly announced candidate.

“Historically, Ridgefield Democrats have opted to select our candidate by Democratic Caucus,” said Joe Shapiro, recently elected as the chairman of the Democratic Town Committee (DTC). “But in light of the COVID-19 situation, we'll be doing it by DTC meeting this time. The statutorily prescribed time to nominate the candidate is in late May and we'll be communicating about our candidate prior to that time.”

The meeting will be held virtually, as will the Republican Town Committee (RTC) meeting that will take over the Republican caucus’s authority.

“The caucus dates have to happen between May 19 and May 26. We have our regular RTC meeting on the 21st of May, We’re planning to hold the caucus as part of that meeting,” said Michael Raduazzo, recently elected as the new Republican Town Committee chairman.

He said Selectman Hebert is the only candidate he’s heard about.

“I’ve had no other individual contact me about the 111th,” Raduazzo said. “The only person that has contacted me and has announced is Bob.

“But we are open to other individuals putting themselves forward,” he said. “It’s a democratic process.”

The RTC is having a virtual meeting tonight (April 16) to approve changes to by-laws needed to allow the town committee rather than the cuauce to make the nomination, Raduazzo said.

For Ridgefield’s other legislative seats, the Democrats have incumbents — Fourth District Congressman Jim Himes, 26th District State Senator Will Haskell, and State Rep. Ken Gucker of Danbury, who holds 138th District seat that includes a slice of northern Ridgebury along with portions of Danbury and New Fairfield.

And the Republicans will be having virtual conventions to nominate challengers.

“For the 138th nobody has contacted me at this point in time. I’m unaware of any candidate,” Raduazzo said.

For the 26th District State Senate, the Republicans have at least two candidates — Kimberly Healy of Wilton, WIll Duff of Bethel — seeking the nomination to challenge Democrat Will Haskell. Longtime Republican incumbent Toni Boucher, who was upset by Haskell in the “blue wave” election two years ago, has said she is not running.

Two Republicans have come forward so far, seeking the nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Jim Himes for the Fourth Congressional District seat: Michael Goldstein of Greenwich and Joseph Villaini of Norwalk.