Election Day 2017: Voters will help fill seats on six boards

Voters will troop to the polls to decide who among some 34 candidates for six town boards and commissions will be smiling election victors next week.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7, with voting from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ridgefielders will vote at three polling places:

  • District One, the south, at East Ridge Middle School.
  • District Two, the north, at Scotts Ridge Middle School.
  • District Three, which sprawls through central Ridgefield, at Yanity gym.

There is no District Four this year, as it pertains only to state elections, in which north Ridgebury residents vote in a different state representative district than the rest of town. Voters in the District Four area will vote at Scotts Ridge as part of District Two.

“I would urge all registered voters to go the polls on Nov. 7 to exercise your right to vote,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “It is one of our responsibilities to be an active participant in the election process, and with the many candidates who have come forward to volunteer their time to serve you, our residents, I ask that you respond by voting on Nov. 7.

“Do your homework,” Marconi added, “and please vote.”

Voters will be electing candidates in contested races for the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Police Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Board of Assessment Appeals.

Some 18,000 Ridgefielders were registered to vote, just over a week before the election, with “unaffiliated” the largest party preference. The town registrars of voters office said on Oct. 26 there were 18,005 voters registered:

  • 6,450 unaffiliated voters.
  • 6,086 registered Republicans.
  • 5,257 Democrats;.
  • 212 voters registered with smaller parties, such as Libertarians, Greens, and members of the Independent Party or the Working Families Party.

Although the deadline for regular registration was Tuesday, there is “Election Day registration” in Connecticut.

People who aren’t registered but qualify to vote in town — 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, living in Ridgefield — may register and vote on Election Day. To do so they must go to the registrars office in town hall — not their district polling place — during election hours Tuesday, and show a current valid identification and proof of their current Ridgefield address.

Absentee ballots may be obtained up until the day before the election in town hall, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30.

Town Clerk Barbara Serfilippi’s office will also be open this Saturday morning, Nov. 4, from 9 to noon, to accommodate absentee voting.

In Connecticut, only people who qualify are entitled to vote by absentee ballot.

“There are several reasons,” Serfilippi said, “active service in the armed forces of the United States, absence from the town during all hours of voting, illness, religious tenets that forbid secular activity on the day of the election, duties as an election official at a polling place other than your own during all hours of voting, and a physical disability.”

With a little over a week left for people to return absentee ballots, Serfilippi said, more than half the ballots issued had already come back — and people have until the close of business Monday, Nov. 6, at 4:30, to return them to her office.

“We’ve issued about 110. But we’ve had about 70 returned,” she said. “It’s typical of an election when there isn’t the first selectman and Board of Selectmen and town clerk and tax collector on the ballot.”

Write-in candidate

Something unusual is a registered write-in candidate, Bob Cousins, in the race for Planning and Zoning Commission.

“We have a write-in candidate for the first time in about nine years,” said Serfilippi.

For write-in votes to be counted, Democratic Registrar of Voters Cindy Bruno said, voters would have to color in a “bubble” on the “Write-In Votes” line — the third line down, below the Democrats and Republicans — in the section under Planning and Zoning Commission, and then write Cousins’ name, as well.

Multiple wins

There are a few places on the ballot where someone is running for more than one position on the same board — a four-year and a two-year seat, for instance.

In such cases, a candidate who wins more than one contest would have to resign from one of the positions he or she was elected to, and that seat would then be filled through appointment by a vote of the board or commission’s other members. The vacancy, however, would have to be filled with a member of the same party as the person who’d won the election and then resigned.

“Our charter says you can’t hold two elected positions within town,” said Bruno. “So if anyone wins more than one race, they’ll have to make a choice which one to resign from.”

The races

For school board, seven candidates are competing for four four-year seats, and two candidates are on the ballot unopposed to fill out two-year vacancies.

Competing for the full four-year terms are four Democrats and three Republicans. The Democrats are incumbents Doug Silver and Margaret Stamatis, joined by Kathleen Holz and Carina Borgia-Drake. The Republicans are incumbent David Cordisco, and Kaitlyn Hayes and Scott Preston.

Running unopposed for the two two-year seats are Republican incumbent Sharon D’Orso, and Democrat Carina Borgia-Drake, who is also on the ballot for a four-year seat and would have to resign one position if she won both contests.

Five candidates are seeking three finance board seats in two separate races.

Four candidates are competing for two full four-year terms: Republican incumbents Marty Heiser and Michael Raduazzo, Democratic incumbent Sean Connelly, and Democrat Amy Macartney Freidenrich.

Freidenrich is also going head-to-head with Republican Richard Moccia to fill out a two-year vacancy — another case where she’ll have to resign one, if she wins both.

There are eight candidates — four Republicans, three Democrats and the write-in candidate — competing in two separate races for six seats on the nine-member Planning and Zoning Commission.

Seeking five open four-year seats are three candidates from each major party, plus the write-in candidate. The Republicans are all incumbents: Rebecca Mucchetti, Stephen Cole and George Hanlon. The Democrats seeking four-year seats are Charles Robbins and Joe Fossi, both incumbents, and Joe Dowdell. The write-in candidate is Cousins, a registered Republican who is running unaffiliated.

There’s also a one-on-one matchup to fill a two-year vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Commission. For this, Republican Bob Cascella and Democrat Charles Robbins, both incumbents, are competing — and, again, Robbins would have to resign one seat if he were elected to both two-year and four-year positions.

For Police Commission, three Republican incumbents are being challenged by two Democrats. The incumbent Republicans are Joseph Savino, Thomas Reynolds and Marcie Coffin. The Democrats are Stephen Saloom and Arnold DiLaura.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has staggered terms beginning at different dates, and is also the only elective board in town to have alternates.

This creates several separate races — two for regular board seats, one to fill a vacancy, and two for positions as ZBA alternates.

For a full four-year board term that begins Nov. 21, 2017, Republican incumbent Carson Fincham is facing Democrat Terry Bearden-Rettger.

For a full four-year term starting in November 2018, Republican incumbent David Choplinski is being challenged by Democrat Mark Seavy, who is currently an alternate on the board.

Seavy is also on the ballot for three other appeals board positions: He’s unopposed to fill out a one-year vacancy on the board, and is also unopposed to fill a vacancy for a three-year stint as an alternate.

And Seavy is facing off against Republican John McNicholas to fill a two-year vacancy as an alternate.

If Seavy wins more than once, he’ll have to choose which one he wants and resign from the others, allowing the board to fill the vacancy — with one exception. If Seavy won the one-year board vacancy (for which he’s unopposed) and also the board seat that starts in 2018 (where he’s running against Choplinski), he could serve both terms since one follows the other.

For Board of Assessment Appeals, voters will fill two of the board’s three seats. The candidates are Democrat Anne Cutter, incumbent Democrat Jeff Lundberg and incumbent Republican Robert Jewell.

Party perspectives

Both Republicans and Democrats say they’re working hard, and both parties plan meet-and-greet events in the final days of the campaign.

The Democrats’ meet-the-candidates event will be at Ross Bread, 109 Danbury Road, Saturday, Nov. 4, from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

The Republican meet-and-greet will be at Tigers’ Den on Monday, Nov. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m.

“I’ve been pushing all my candidates: Make sure you’re there,” Republican Town Committee chairman Alex Karsanidi said. “My job is to make sure they don’t take it easy until after Election Day.

“You’ve got to really be visible, be there, attend as many things as you can,” he said.

“We’re working it,” Karsanidi said. “You don’t want to become a nuisance, because then you turn people off.”

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tom Madden said the party activists have been making phone calls.

“We use volunteers — and some of them are the candidates and some are Democratic Town Committee members, and some are just people who volunteer. We call with two things in mind: one is to inform people about the election and the candidates, and the other is to remind them that the election is coming up on Nov. 7, because that’s important

“We also have candidates going around knocking on doors, and that’s good, because it gives people a chance to look candidates right in the eye.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the results — but I always am,” said Madden. “If we lose, it won’t be because we weren’t trying. We’re really working hard, and we’re optimistic it will work out well for us, and for the town.”