New Canaan voters on Nov. 5 will cast ballots in three contested—for the Board of Selectmen, Board of Education and Town Council—following Tuesday night’s Democratic and Republican caucuses.
Local Democrats at Town Hall nominated not only Craig Donovan for first selectman and Kit Devereaux for selectman, as announced, but also nominated two candidates for Board of Ed and three for Town Council.
Of the four Board of Ed seats up for election, three currently are held by Republicans, meaning the Democrats are seeking to “pick up” a seat. School board Chairman Brendan Hayes and Steve Eno, a parent involved in the effort to start school later for adolescents, were nominated by New Canaan Democrats for the Board of Ed.
They’ll face three Republicans who earned GOP nominations at the party’s caucus held Tuesday night in the New Canaan High School gym. The Republicans had a turnout of 555 voters, officials said, and nominated Carl Gardiner (346 votes), Julie Reeves (309) and Bob Naughton (282) as candidates for the Board of Ed. Contenders Daniel LaGattuta (273) and Suzanne Harrison (268) were the fourth- and fifth-highest vote-getters in a close race for party backing.
Of the six seats up for election to the Town Council, two are held by Democrats, meaning they’re also seeking to “pick up” a seat on the legislative body. Robin Bates-Mason, Colm Dobbyn and Mark Grzymski were nominated for the Town Council.
The candidates, and those who nominated them, addressed about 50 Democrats who attended the caucus, which was overseen by Beth Jones and Christina Fagerstal.
Donovan and Devereaux both referred to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan in their remarks. Moynihan in 2017 defeated Devereaux by 33 votes.
“If you are going to be a leader, you have to be everybody’s leader, which means you have to listen to everybody, you have to talk to everybody, you have to work with everybody,” Donovan said while accepting the nomination for the town’s highest elected office.
“So it’s going to be a very different kind of first selectman after I am in office. It is going to be one based on listening, on collaborative problem-solving and on looking for new ideas and new ways instead of starting with the word ‘traditionally.’ ”
Devereaux in accepting the nomination for re-election as a Democratic selectman, underscored positions she’s taken as a member of the Board since 2017—for example, she’s opposed to selling a parcel of the former Lapham estate below the Merritt Parkway, and wants more than one firm interviewed before operating a consequential town-wide survey designed to gauge taxpayer priorities. She also said that “while creativity is good, the stream-of-consciousness floating of ideas” such as to build a new police department at a Saxe Middle School baseball field or paving over that field to expand the New Canaan YMCA lot “cause unnecessary angst and upset in our community.”
“I believe it would be healthier for our community if we had fewer unilateral changes and more refinement of what is great about our town,” Devereaux said. “And I think it would be healthier if the changes we do take on have the benefit of full and robust public input. Change can be good, but change for change’s sake, not so much. I believe that the leadership of our town should act as the public servants they were elected to be and not as as the chief executive officer of a medium-sized business.”
The last comment drew applause from the room.
Whoever finishes second in the race for first selectman goes into a pool with Williams and Devereaux, and the two top vote-getters among those three will serve as selectmen.
The caucuses determine which candidates will be included on the party line of ballots on Election Day. The Democrats were nominated by voice vote or “acclamation” of the full slate, while local Republicans go through the formal process of voting individually at their own caucus.
Here’s a table showing the candidates who accepted their parties’ nominations. The table does not necessarily reflect all candidates who will appear on November’s ballot—for example, petitioning candidates have until Aug. 7 to file:
Election 2019: Candidates After Caucuses
|First Selectman (1)||Kevin Moynihan*||Craig Donovan|
|Selectman (2)||Nick Williams*||Kit Devereaux*|
|Town Council (6)||Steve Karl*|
Cristina A. Ross*
|Board of Education (4)||Carl Gardiner|
|Town Clerk (1)||Claudia Weber*||none|
|Town Treasurer (1)||Andrew Brooks*||none|
|Board of Assessment Appeals (3)||Dave Hunt*|
|Constable (7)||Arvind Bajaj*|
Mary Anne Mercogliano*
Democrats Joe Paladino and Jim Kucharczyk are not seeking re-election to the Town Council.
Democrat and Board of Ed member Penny Rashin in nominating Hayes called him “thoughtful,” “smart,” “collaborative” and “committed to education” and said he’s done a “tremendous job.”
“He stepped right in with school start times, which is a multilayered problem, with both fiscal and health considerations, and under his leadership the Board of Ed just recently voted to examine further the option which would be to start elementary schools first, followed by the high school, followed by Saxe,” Rashin said. “So we will be looking at that in detail in the fall and we will see whether or not we can achieve it.”
Hayes described himself as the son of parents who both spent their entire careers in education and described New Canaan Public Schools as among the best in the state and nation.
“What I have tried to do on Board of Education, and hopefully successfully, is to listen to the administrators and fellow Board of Ed members, but ultimately to move us forward and do it as efficiently as possible from a cost perspective,” Hayes said.
Eno said he’s been a resident for nine years and has seen firsthand how much the school district has benefitted his daughters. Eno said he became interested in running for elected office last year when he became involved in the push for later school start times for adolescents and that while he has seen “that there is a lot that the Board of Ed contributes not just to the educational system, but to the town,” he also has concluded that there’s “a good opportunity for more transparency, community involvement and governance.”