Mythbusters: Not All Candidates Run With Dunn

Phone calls are being made, handshakes exchanged, and doors being knocked on by candidates all across town. As the town enters its final week of campaign activity, some residents have expressed confusion: Who’s running with whom? This article is intended to help clear that up. Bare with me though – it IS confusing.

Let’s get organized. There are FOUR groups out there. You have the two main political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. The Democrats have a candidate for mayor, George Babcock, and Lorraine McQueen is fighting to keep her job as Tax Collector. Republicans are staying out of these two races and instead are looking to lead the Town Council and Board of Education. When you look at the ballot, you’ll see a number of unfilled slots where the two major parties have not decided to fill a candidate. Other than that, the two parties are running fairly traditional campaigns.

What is unusual is that there appears to be a full slate of candidates on the third line of the ballot, Row C. When you go into the voting booth, you should note that this row is for “Petitioning Candidates” under the party label. This label is important. In order to get on the ballot, each of these candidates had to get signatures from voters to prove they can muster some support to be on the ballot. Traditionally, people who simply want to run for office apart from a major party, are registered as “unnaffiliated”, or cannot get a nomination from a major party will take this route to get on the ballot. Usually, these candidates have no relation to each other and for state regulations, they are placed on the next available line on the ballot.

Wolcott used to have an active Concerned Citizen Party. If they still were active, they would occupy line C, and petitioners would then be on Line D. But there is no active Concerned Citizens Party this year. Waterbury and Watertown have local parties that are registered with the state as the Independent Party. This party, like Republicans and Democrats, are organized, haev a financial and leadership structure. In contrast, those running as “unnaffiliated” generally run on their own resources and are uncoordinated.

So let’s look at the affilations on Wolcott’s “Row C”.

There are actually two groups. First, are the candidates that are simply running on their own, as is traditional. Those that do so are running on their own merits and think that running independently has some advantages. Mayor Dunn has followed this route since he amassed more votes than his Republican and Democratic opponents combined in first run for mayor in 2003. Two years ago a number of Town Council candidates, including Mike Bokon also ran independently of each other on this row. This year, Dunn, and 3rd District Town Council candidate Steven Olmstead continue to run independently. In fact, Dunn has repeatedly stated “I am not running a slate”. He has not endorsed any other candidate and has also stated that he would work with whomever the voters elect. Therefore, if you hear a Row C candidate say “I’m running on Tom Dunn’s slate”, they are mistaken. Yes, their name will just happen to fall on the same voting line… but they are not coordinating thier campaigns or necessarily agree upon the same issues.

Apart from Dunn, Olmstead, and Bokon, the rest of the candidates appear to be running together. But the term “together” should be asterisked. Candidates on the Row C line cannot form a joint finance committee to fund their campaign. Yet, most of them are coordinating their campaigns together under the leadership of businessman Bob Ficeto. Some residents have also asked if Row C candidates are actually members of a party. Yes, many of them are, but this shouldn’t be confused with colluding with a party or being endorsed or coordinated by a party. Most people affiliate themselves with a party simply to be able to vote in Presidential primaries or to affiliate themselves with national beliefs. Those beliefs tend not to resonate as well on the local level where the answers to issues are much more common and cross party lines. Anyone can run on the Row C line, no matter their party affiliation. In fact, 4 of the Row C candidates are actually Republicans, 5 are Democrats, and 7 are unnaffiliated. This breakdown correalates pretty well with the same breakdown of Wolcott voters who are about 50% unnaffiliated, 26% Republican and 24% Democrat.

Confused? Remember that confusion is one of the most affective campaign tactics.

Sometimes politicians use that tactic to get you to vote for them. Mayor Dunn is certainly popular, and if a candidate presents themself as affiliating with him, it may help them. In Waterbury the Republican party endorsed Democratic Mayor Mike Jarjura. Doing so automatically got them more help for their Alderman campaigns. Wolcott Republicans have usually worked closely with Dunn in the past, but have decided not to endorse him. Yet, the Republicans and Dunn share a building on Wolcott Rd. for their headquarters which might note how well the two work together. A wall does separate the two, however.

Despite the differences these alliances hold, there is still some commonality. Most “Row C” candidates – whether running together or not – and Republicans – have been taking similar aims. While the Row C crowd certainly has been more vocal than anyone this election cycle, both groups have taken aim at Democrats for proposing to cut fuel funding for the senior shuttle, and blame democrats for being too lax in overseeing various aspects of town government. Dunn has held himself above this fray simply explaining the positive accomplishments within his control and advocating for a Charter revision. Town Councilman Mike Perrone also has echoed that call, as has Democrat George Babcock but for different reasons.

In this sense, many candidates really are trying to distinguish themselves from their party and running independently.

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