Six Republican school board candidates could create September primary
Two additional Republican candidates for Ridgefield’s Board of Education have emerged after a pair of petitions were submitted to the registrars of voters office earlier this week.
The Ridgefield Republican Town Committee nominated and endorsed four school board candidates at its caucus on July 23 — Sean McEvoy, Liz Floegel, Robert Ceccarini, and Rachel Ruggerri.
Those four will be challenged by newcomers Darrin McGuire and Bryan Ward, creating an over-stuffed GOP ballot and triggering a potential primary on Sept. 10 for the five open Board of Education seats.
McGuire is running as a Republican without the backing of the Ridgefield RTC. He told The Press he gathered 357 signatures — more than the 292 he will need to get on the ballot — from registered Ridgefield Republicans.
Ward, another Republican who has received endorsement from the Ridgefield RTC, was not present at the July 23 caucus. He also claims to have reached the necessary signatures on his petition, which was submitted prior to the 4 p.m. deadline Wednesday, Aug. 7.
Ward shared a petition with Bob Cousins, who is attempting to run for the Zoning Board of Appeals as an alternate.
Cindy Bruno, the Democratic registrar of voters, said the signatures are still preliminary. Bruno said they will be verified by Monday, Aug. 12.
McGuire, who said he grew up in town and attended East Ridge Middle School before he moved away, said he was partly inspired to run due to the “toxic level of discussion” in town politics.
“Personal attacks have no place in the way I do business, and character assassination has no place in politics in Ridgefield,” McGuire said. “If you think our kids aren’t watching what we’re doing, you’re sadly mistaken.”
“I think the discourse in this town really needs a lot of civility added to it,” he added.
The leader of McGuire’s own party characterized his run for the school board as politically motivated by town Democrats.
“This is purely a democratic push to get him on the ballot,” said Hope Wise, chairman of the Republican Town Committee.
“Apparently there’s still drama” between groups for and against “early start [or] late start” for the schools, she said.
In the 43 hours of interviews the Ridgefield RTC conducted to find their candidates, Wise said she never heard from McGuire that he wanted to run.
“I believe that the Democrats are trying to get this fellow on,” she added. “I had four calls over the weekend from Republicans whose spouses are Democrats. … I’m in touch with what’s going on with the Republicans in town. Nobody knew this guy very well.”
If both McGuire and Ward get the signatures they need, the party will hold a primary with the six candidates on Sept. 10 — something Wise seemed loathe to do.
“I’m really, very disappointed in this,” she said. “I don’t like primaries, they do nothing but damage parties.”
“But that is the process, let’s see who gets 300 signatures and we’ll go from there,” she said.
McGuire said he has supporters on both sides of the aisle, but that his nomination is not being pushed by Democrats.
“My first priority is our kids, not my party,” he said. “No matter what Hope says, I could only get Republican signatures on my petition — I was backed by over 350 registered Ridgefield Republicans.”
“It does sadden me because it implies having support from people outside your party is a bad thing,” McGuire added.
Other issues also pushed him to run for the school board — his first attempt at running for public office.
“The biggest one for me is transparency,” said McGuire. “We’re a very generous town, and no one would want to deny our kids anything.” But at the same time, “we have some taxpayers who don’t really feel heard right now,” including older residents, who pay taxes that support the schools, but no longer have children in the district.
He said he has three children in the district’s schools, and has lived in town with his wife Melanie since 2005.
McGuire is not the only candidate petitioning to get on the Republican ticket.
Ward, an endorsed Republican candidate, is also gathering signatures to be on the ballot. Wise said the race will also be his first time running for public office.
In a Facebook post, Ward said he was running “to support our town, our schools and, of course, our children.”
He described himself as a 10-year resident of the town who coaches sports and serves on the board of the Ridgefield Little League.
“To say that I love this town would be an understatement, and its quality of education remains a large factor in that,” the post said. “...I (we) believe that more can be done to not only maintain but grow upon that quality.”