Election Perspective: After Tooker, Big Winners Were Dems and ‘Uncontested’

Nov 3, 2021 | Government, Politics | 0 comments

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Jennifer Tooker may have won the marquee contest Tuesday to become the town’s next first selectman, perhaps the biggest winner of the night was “uncontested.”

Celebration: Jennifer Tooker embraces her husband Mo after hearing she had won a narrow victory for first selectman. / Photo by Dawn Shmaruk

While official election results for races up and down the town’s 2021 ballot are not expected until later Wednesday, the unofficial results released at Town Hall late Tuesday show Democrats winning the majority of seats up for grabs on boards and commissions.

Except, in nearly every case, the seats were not “up for grabs,” since the major political parties nominated only the maximum number of candidates guaranteed election under minority-representation rules.

That said, as the smoke from Tuesday’s voting begins to clear Wednesday morning, there are major election takeaways — assuming a review of the 61-vote Tooker margin over Democrat Jonathan Steinberg in the first selectman race does not trigger an official recount.

Disappointed: State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, with running mate Candice Savin, talk to supporters as results indicate they lost their quest for the Board of Selectmen. / Photo by Jarret Liotta

Tooker/Moore win makes history

Tooker, in succeeding fellow Republican Jim Marpe as first selectman, becomes the first Republican woman to hold Westport’s top job.

With Tooker’s Republican running mate, Andrea Moore, elected as a selectman, two women from the same political party comprise the Board of Selectmen’s majority for the first time.

Unofficial results in that extremely tight race were: Jennifer Tooker/Andrea Moore (R), 4,214; Jonathan Steinberg/Candice Savin (D), 4,153, and TJ Elgin/Louis D’Onofrio Jr. (L), 64

Jennifer Tooker victory speech video by Thane Grauel

Democrats dominate most other contests

After winning control of the Board of Selectmen, however, Republicans had much less to cheer about.

In nearly every other race for boards and commissions — contested or not — the Democrats’ candidates ran far ahead of Republican contenders.

BOARD of FINANCE

In the Board of Finance race, with three candidates running for three seats, Brian Stern, the Democratic chairman, led the uncontested field with 5,105 votes, followed by incumbent Democrat Lee Caney with 4,937, and Republican Michael Keller trailing with 4,075.

BOARD of EDUCATION

The Board of Education race, roiled by the debate over Critical Race Theory, was also essentially uncontested, but for the late entry by a write in candidate.

The two candidates nominated by each major political parties — all of them newcomers to the school board — were virtually certain of winning a seat before the first vote was cast Tuesday.

Here, too, Democrats easily outpaced Republicans: Christina Torres, Democrat, led the field with 5,153 votes, followed by fellow Democrat Kevin Christie with 5,075, besting Republicans Dorie Hordon, 3,889 and Robert Harrington, 3,826. Write-in candidate Alma Sarelli got 98 votes.

BOARD of ASSESSMENT APPEALS

The Board of Assessment Appeals featured the two Democratic candidates claiming the two contested seats, with incumbent Democrat Lynette Pineda getting 4,528 votes, followed by Democrat Ifeseyi Gayle, 4,427, and then Republican incumbent Joseph Sledge at 3,450.

PLANNING and ZONING COMMISSION

In the genuine contest for Planning and Zoning seats, with five candidates running for three available seats, incumbent Democrats — cross-endorsed by Save Westport Now — handily won re-election.

Danielle Dobin, the P&Z chairwoman, won 4,838 votes on the Democratic ballot line, with an additional 532 from Save Westport Now, followed by Democrats Michael Cammeyer, 4,571/503 and Neil Cohn, 4,461/440. 

Falling short were two former P&Z members seeking to return to the commission: Republican Jack Whittle got 3,341 votes, and Ron Corwin, running on the Coalition for Westport line, got 778.

ZONING BOARD of APPEALS

Democrats were the only candidates for the two Zoning Board of Appeals seats on the ballot Tuesday. The re-elected incumbents are: Amy Wistreich, with 5,156 votes and Josh Newman, 5,074.

REPRESENTATIVE TOWN MEETING

Complete results for the Representative Town Meeting were not available late Tuesday, but only three of the legislature’s nine districts featured contests for the four seats available in each.

Totals updated as of Wednesday morning in those contested districts show:

District 1: Liz Milwe returned to the body with 436 votes, joined by Matthew Mandell, 360; Chris Tait, 337, and Kristin Mott Purcell, 277. Abby Tolan, 253 votes, and Rick Jaffe, 228, were unsuccessful.

District 3: Winners were Jimmy Izzo, 395 votes; Mark Friedman, 348; Don O’Day, 344, and Arline Gertzoff, 324. Ross Burkhardt, 247 votes, fell short.

District 9: Winners include Kristin Schneeman, 425 votes; Nancy Kail, 400; Sal Liccione, 345, and Lori Church, 342. Clark Thiemann, 312 votes, and Marla Cowden, 298, lost.

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