Jill Dillon, second from right, a write-in candidate for the Board of Education, waited for election results with supporters, from left, Rosie Curtis, Sarah Reiss-Schmidt, Steph Bulkley and Sal Liccione.
Jill Dillon, second from right, write-in candidate for the Board of Education, waited for election results with supporters, from left, Rosie Curtis, Sarah Reiss-Schmidt, Steph Bulkley and Sal Liccione.
Camilo Riano, Republican Board of Education candidate, talks to supporters.

WESTPORT — In the hotly contested race for the Board of Education, write-in candidate Jill Dillon, boosted by an alliance with local Democrats, rode a surging tide of support to claim the third school board seat up for grabs in Tuesday’s municipal election.

Dillon, with an unofficial count of 5,292 write-in votes, joined Democratic incumbents Lee Goldstein and Neil Phillips rolling to a big win.

Goldstein, the school board chairwoman, tallied 6,392 votes, and Phillips, the board secretary, 6,361 votes.

Republicans Camilo Riano, with 2,088 votes, and Jamie Fitzgerald, 2,171, finished far behind.

“It seems like a good night, not for me, but for Westport,” Dillon said after write-in tallies appeared to show she had clinched the third school board seat on Tuesday’s ballot.

First-time voter Ari Liu, 18, prepares to cast his first vote at the Long Lots polls.

The contest for Board of Education seats over the last several weeks had turned ugly. The battle mirrored many of the arguments — and divisions — that have flared nationally over educational philosophy and parental vs. professional control of schools. 

Dillon, who entered the race late after the major parties had endorsed their candidates, ran as an unaffiliated voter to prevent one of the two GOP nominees from gaining a seat. Otherwise, one of them would have under the charter’s provision guaranteeing minority-party representation.

Even several prominent Republicans, such as First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker and Board of Education member Robert Harrington, did not support Riano’s candidacy because of earlier controversial statements.

Harrington, in fact, declined to back both Republicans, saying Tuesday during a visit to one of the polls: “I am not supporting the candidates my party nominated. They’re too extreme. It’s very frustrating.”

Republicans watch unofficial numbers trickle in at Rizzuto's on Tuesday.
Republicans watch unofficial numbers trickle in at Rizzuto’s.

Republicans gathered Tuesday night at Rizzuto’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Saugatuck. Many appeared subdued, gloomy even, as the poll watchers forwarded information. An unofficial tally was kept on a laptop with a second larger monitor next to it.

At the Spotted Horse on Church Lane, Dillon and her quickly mobilized campaign team gathered to await the results. She got applause and a seemingly endless series of hugs after walking in shortly after the polls closed. The crowd seemed encouraged by reports from the field, even though winning as a write-in candidate is no easy task.

Democrats gathered at the Little Barn on Post Road East. The mood was festive.

“It was a fantastic night for the Democrats,” said Danielle Dobin, chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Commission who won a seat on the Board of Finance. “I’m very grateful for the widespread support at all the polling places.”

Around 10:30 p.m., Republican P&Z member John Bolton, who lost his seat, arrived to concede, buoyed by Patrizia Zucaro, a fellow Republican on the commission. There were hugs, handshakes and kind words.

By the numbers: Vote totals from Tuesday’s balloting (* denotes incumbent)

BOARD OF FINANCE: Democrats Danielle Dobin and Jeffrey Hammer easily won seats, with Republican Liz Heyer, moving from the Board of Education to claim a third seat up for grabs. Newcomer Rich Hightower, a Republican, also was elected, while incumbent Perry Winter lost his seat.

Board of Finance Chairman Lee Caney checks the vote count at the Long Lots polls.

Danielle Dobin (D): 6,083

Jeffrey Hammer * (D): 6,002

Rich Hightower (R): 3,171

Liz Heyer (R): 3,475

Perry Winter * (R): 2,713

PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION: Three incumbent members were re-elected — Paul Lebowitz, an unaffiliated candidate backed by Democrats, and Republicans Amie Tesler and Patrizia Zucaro, with the addition of a new GOP member, Michael Calise. Incumbent Republican John Bolton lost his seat.

Paul Lebowitz * (D): 5,907

Amie Tesler * (R): 3,052

Republican school board member Robert Harrington, supporting write-in candidate Jill Dillon outside the Greens Farms School polls.

Patrizia Zucaro * (R): 2,980

Michael Calise (R): 3,203

John Bolton * (R): 2,758

Joseph Strickland Jr. (CW): 1,629


Three elected

Jim Ezzes * (D): 5,955

Michelle Hopson * (R): 3,433

Liz Wong * (R): 3,618


One elected

Joseph Sledge * (R): 3,500

Representative Town Meeting member Harris Falk, left, who apparently lost his District 2 seat in Tuesday’s election, talks with Sal Liccione and Jennifer Johnson, who both won seats in District 9.


Top four vote-getters elected in each district (* denotes incumbent)

District 1:

Andrew Bloom: 421

Chris Tait *: 413

Kristin Mott Purcell *: 372

Richard Jaffe: 293

Matthew Mandell *: 438

District 2:

RTM member Harris Falk had a whimsical take on lapel stickers, but still was edged out in Tuesday's election.
RTM member Harris Falk had a whimsical take on lapel stickers, but still was edged out in Tuesday’s election.

Mike Perry *: 356

Harris Falk *: 342

Louis Mall *: 436

Jay Keenan *: 364

Melissa Levy: 543

District 3:

Jimmy Izzo *: 543

Don O’Day *: 466

Lyn Hogan: 446

Ross Burkhardt *: 418

District 4:

Noah Hammond *: 362

Jeffrey Wieser *: 422

Andrew Colabella *: 434

Clarence Hayes: 320

District 5:

Peter Gold *: 442

Claudia Shaum *: 404

Karen Kramer *: 409

Dick Lowenstein *: 447

District 6:

Seth Braunstein *: 423

Alma Sarelli: 268

David Rosenwaks: 510

Brien Buckman *: 165

Jessica Bram *: 356

Louis D’Onofrio Jr.: 162

Candace Banks *: 522

District 7:

Brandi Briggs *: 503

Lauren Karpf *: 504

Ellen Lautenberg *: 480

Jack Klinge *: 477

District 8:

Rachel Cohn *: 483

Julie Whammond *: 433

Ari Benmosche: 501

Wendy Batteau *: 483

District 9:  

Douglas Enslin: 401

Jennifer Johnson: 523

John Suggs: 366

Kristin Schneeman *: 431

Rachel Halperin: 281

Sal Liccione *: 432

Nancy Kail *: 511

Voters casting ballots at the polls in Long Lots Elementary School.