The Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for mayor in November traded barbs this week, following the certification that all of the challenge slate for the Sept. 12 primary.
Mayor Edward M. O’Brien and campaign representatives questioned challenger Nancy Rossi’s decision to form a new political party and apply for petitions for her entire slate to run in the November general election after the certification was announced. They contend if she plans on running in November, she should preclude the primary and head for the general election.
The challenger, meanwhile, not only defends the decision, but says she has little trust the process would be a fair one based on recent history.
“Nancy and her team of candidates received approval from the Connecticut Secretary of State to petition for a run in the general election this November as members of the ‘A Better Choice’ Party,” O’Brien said this week. Filing the paperwork to run in November indicates that Nancy and her team do not anticipate being successful in the primary election,” O’Brien said, “This move by Nancy and her team indicates that they simply cannot accept the fact that West Haven voters do not want them in office.”
Between preparation work, ballots and absentee ballots/applications being printed, hiring and training poll workers, and buying a variety of other supplies, the primary election is estimated to cost West Haven taxpayers nearly $80,000, according to the O’Brien camp.
“For someone whose only talking point is about the city’s finances, it’s odd that she would cost West Haven taxpayers $80,000 for a primary election she has no intention or expectation of winning. That money could be used for our teachers, paraprofessionals, police officers, firefighters, and a whole variety of positive things that would benefit our citizens. Instead, we’re spending it on the primary when Nancy plans on running in November anyway,” the mayor said.
Brian Reilly, O’Brien’s campaign manager, said supporters of the challenge slate should feel somewhat betrayed.
“If I were one of Nancy’s supporters, I would feel extremely discouraged hearing that the candidate I support does not think she can win. It’s also strange that she plans on abandoning the political party that she is asking to vote for her,” he said.
O’Brien took his criticism further, saying that if the Rossi slate is going to run in November, they should drop out of the primary.
“If Nancy and her team drop out of the primary, I will make sure that money goes to good use for the residents of West Haven,” he said. “(They) absolutely have the right to run, so if they’re going to run in November then let’s save the city some money now.”
Rossi, meanwhile, defended the campaign, saying the decision was made in case the petition process hit a snag.
“I want to clarify that the filing for a position on the ballot in November was done as a contingency plan in case there are irregularities as there have been in the past, with the primary process and primary on Sept. 12. Historically, when petitions were brought in, the signature verification process began immediately. Most candidates were certified prior to the deadline. Yet, as of today (Sunday) we have not yet received official notification that the signatures we submitted, to qualify us for a primary, have been certified. This is absolutely unacceptable. My team and I worked tirelessly gathering signatures across the city for the past two weeks. We brought signatures in to the registrar’s office where they sat without attention for almost a week! My concerns go beyond the delay in certification of signatures,” she said.
Rossi said recent history has proven campaigns have to take measures to protect their candidates and supporters. They pointed to September 2013, when a recount of all ballots cast in the Democratic Primary revealed the absentee ballots could not be reconciled in one district, and the only recourse was to sue.
Also, last year in a primary for Registrar, the campaign contends Patty Horvath won the voting machines in every district in the city. She lost the race when the absentee ballots were counted.
“I have very little confidence in the O’Brien administration’s ability or willingness to run a proper primary,” Rossi charged.
Rossi reminded her opponent, running independently of the party was a tactic used by candidate Edward O’Brien.
“Running in primaries as an independent democrat should be nothing new to Ed O’Brien. After losing the Democratic Primary in 2011, he accepted the A Better Future Party nomination in 2011. Again In 2013, O’Brien forced a Democratic Primary against John Picard. Perhaps he forgot that both the primary in 2011 and 2013 cost thousands of dollars,” added Rossi.
Her campaign manager and candidate for treasurer said charging fiscal irresponsibility for a primary ballot, given the administration’s record doesn’t translate. That
“Ed O’Brien’s stated concern about saving the city money rings hollow. He continues to hire friends and family as if the city were his personal employment agency. He flat lined the Board of Education. He has yet to balance a budget, running consecutive deficits of $700,000, $1.7 million, and $2.5 million. Either the mayor does not understand how finance works or he has absolutely no respect for our money or us, the taxpayers. Mayor O’Brien promises everything around election time and delivers nothing” said Last.