By Gretchen Webster
WESTPORT — State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a day after his narrow loss in the race for first selectman, said that he will not take a seat on the Board of Selectman.
Jennifer Tooker, the Republican who won the town’s top job by an unofficial margin of 69 votes over Steinberg, and her running mate, Andrea Moore, will take office Nov. 16. They will be the first two women from the same political party comprising Board of Selectmen majority in Westport’s history.
Democrat Steinberg, contacted Wednesday afternoon, said he does not wish to serve as the board’s “third” selectman, as would be the usual case under Westport’s election laws.
‘Third wheel’ status not appealing
“I am a six-term state representative and the chairman of a large committee [in the state General Assembly]. Why would one give up a large job for a tiny one?” he said.
Steinberg said the third selectman, as the board’s minority party representative, essentially functions as “a third wheel” on the board, a position he does not relish.
Steinberg is in the midst of serving his sixth two-year term representing the 136th Assembly District in Hartford.
He is the House chairman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee. He also serves on the Energy and Technology, and the Transportation committees.
Steinberg said he would have relinquished his legislative seat if he had won the first selectman’s post. But, he added, he would not leave the legislature for the third selectman’s seat, although he could have held both posts.
Attending meetings both in Hartford and Westport would be too difficult, he said. The third selectman also sits on several other municipal panels, such as the Water Pollution Authority, and must attend those meetings as well as Board of Selectman sessions.
Updated election returns: Recount not expected
Although the election results were not “official” as of early Wednesday afternoon, Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton said remaining tabulations to be completed before the official winners are announced are not expected to change the outcome of the vote.
In updated returns from Tuesday’s election, filed by local election officials with the Secretary of the State’s office Wednesday, Steinberg and his running mate Candice Savin lost to the Tooker/Moore team, 4,237 votes to 4,168. Libertarian TJ Elgin and his running mate, Louis D’Onofrio Jr., received 64 votes, according to the latest tally.
Although the size of Tooker’s victory is slender, the numbers remain outside the margin — one-half of 1 percent — that Steinberg would need to call for a formal recount of the returns, Dunkerton indicated.
Dunkerton also said that he will research town election procedures to gauge the next steps in the process of filling the last seat on the Board of Selectmen since Steinberg does not plan to serve.
Researching next steps to fill selectman seat
The victor in the first selectman’s race is determined by the candidate for first selectman with the highest number of votes taking the top job, and that candidate’s running mate filling the second spot. In Westport, the first selectman and running mate are a team listed on the same ballot line and are not voted on separately. The next highest vote getter, usually the first selectman candidate from the opposing party, is then appointed to the third selectman seat.
But with Steinberg out of the picture, the question arises over who will take the third spot on the board.
Dunkerton said that position would likely go to Steinberg’s running mate, Democrat Candice Savin, who currently is the Board of Education chairwoman. But there was also another candidate in the first selectman race, TJ Elgin, who ran on the Libertarian line, although he received only 64 votes.
Savin could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.