With both Republican candidates making the final push toward Tuesday’s primary, the question of whether the vote will finalize the candidates for November became a real one as a potential third-party endorsement could muddy the water in November. Both Paige Weinstein, the endorsed candidate, and Barry Lee Cohen, the 2021 candidate and primary challenger, have at least tacit endorsements from other organizations. But the formation of “Westies for Change” over the summer has led to charges of trying to circumvent the process.
Last week, the Cohen campaign accused the Weinstein of attempting to go round Tuesday’s primary, by signing a petition forming “Westies for Change.” The organization, Cohen alleges, has the signatures of many members of the Republican Town Committee on a Petition for “Reservation of Party Designation and Formation of a Party Designation Committee.”
The petitions, taken out in June and finalized in June and July, do, in fact, seek third-party status, and many of the signees are Republican Town Committee members. The petitions, however, were too late for cross-endorsements under Connecticut State Statute but do allow the organization to make endorsements of its own by Sept. 6, yesterday.
Weinstein, in a statement this week through her campaign, admitted to seeking the endorsement of the group.
“As the endorsed Republican candidate for Mayor of West Haven, I am committed to bringing positive change to City Hall. To my knowledge, Westies for Change was established to promote that positive change, which is why I have petitioned for their endorsement for Mayor of West Haven. Currently, Westies for Change has not endorsed any candidates, however I am hopeful to receive their support and the support of the Republican voters on Sept. 12, to demonstrate that this election is about bringing fresh ideas, new candidates, and especially, West Haven voices to the table, regardless of typical party affiliation,” her statement read.
Last month, City Clerk Patricia Horvath sought guidance from the Secretary of State’s office to determine if WFC would have a place on the ballot in November. The answer shows Weinstein could determine to continue her campaign if voters choose Cohen.
Lori Magora of the Election Division of the Secretary of State’s office wrote the following in an email to Horvath: Westies for Change did not meet the criteria for cross endorsing (CGS 9-453t) for most offices.
For the primary: If Paige Weinstein (Mayor) and Joe Viola (City Clerk) candidates win the primary, they will appear on the ballot as Republicans. If they should lose the primary, they will still appear on the ballot for Westies for Change.
In a statement last week, Cohen said Weinstein and WFC were looking to sabotage his chances if he should win. He also took a position as to running in November.
“Westies for Change was created by the Paige Weinstein campaign and her supporters to cost the Republican candidate the general election, whether it was Steve Mullins or myself. These supporters include elected officials, who need to explain to West Haven Republican primary voters AND CT Republican Party members in this state why their choice in the primary doesn’t count if it is not Ms. Weinstein.
“Unlike Ms. Weinstein and her supporters who formed a new party to ensure her a place on the November ballot, I am being CROSS-endorsed by the Independent Party of Connecticut, a long-established minor party that many other Republican elected officials and prior candidates have accepted and even pursued.
“I’ve visited almost 5,000 households and I’m supported by an incredible team. I expect to win the primary.
“However, I will not run on a separate party line and siphon Republican votes away from the candidate that is the choice of West Haven Republicans. Will Ms. Weinstein do the same?”
Third parties have long been used in West Haven by candidates who lost primary votes, though the formation of the party must take place months prior. The last attempt was by former Mayor H. Richard Borer, Jr., who formed the A Better Future Party, and ran on that ticket when he lost to eventual winner John Picard.
Whether Weinstein determines to make a second attempt at City Hall or not is to be determined, but what is sure is the fissure in the city’s minority party may be beyond repair.
If Weinstein does act to take the WFC endorsement into the Nov. 7 election after a loss Tuesday, the run for mayor will have Dorinda Borer as the lone Democrat, Cohen, Weinstein, and write-in candidate Steven R. Mullins will be on the ballot, a four-way race. A Weinstein win will still have Mullins as a write-in.