Board of Education winners: Solid victories were scored Tuesday by, from left, Democrats Lee Goldstein and Neil Phllips, and their unaffiliated ally, write-in candidate Jill Dillon.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated to correct the address of Long Lots Elementary School.

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Consequences.

Elections have them. 

A snapshot of highlights from Tuesday’s municipal election:

Despite controversy that engulfed the Board of Education contest, the two incumbent Democrats emerged from the fray with the highest vote totals among all results Tuesday.

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

With their unaffiliated ally, Jill Dillon, Democrats — philosophically, at least — strengthen their control of the Board of Education with four formally endorsed members along with the write-in victor. Democrats openly endorsed the Dillon campaign in the last several weeks.

Backed by an enthusiastic corps of volunteers, Dillon also proved you can start late and run from outside the usual structure of party politics — and still succeed, though against great odds. Dillon’s victory was even more remarkable given her healthy total of 5,292 votes versus the Republican Riano-Fitzgerald team, who won 2,008 and 2,171 votes, respectively.

By contrast, Alma Sarelli, a Republican write-in candidate for the Board of Education two years ago, garnered only 98 votes that year.

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Democrats now maintain control over all of the town’s major boards and commissions, in part, a result of their huge advantage in registered voters. For the 2023 election, the town’s total of 21,551 voters broke down along the following political party lines: 9,218 Democrats, 3,946 Republicans, 8,195 unaffiliated and 192 other political affiliations.

Voter turnout, according to figures released Wednesday, was roughly 44 percent of the total number of voters registered in Westport — 9,472 of the 21,551 total. That figure includes 1,645 absentee ballots and 46 voters registered on Election Day.

That’s a larger turnout than recorded in the last “off-year” election — 2019 — when, like Tuesday, there were no national, state or first selectman contests on the ballot. In that election, 39.5 percent of the town’s eligible voters cast ballots.

But turnout this year was not as robust as last year, which featured ballot-topping contests for governor, U.S. Senate and House, and local seats in the General Assembly. Turnout then was about 64 percent.

And in 2020, the last presidential election — which traditionally spark the highest voter participation — 86.5 percent of Westport’s eligible voters cast ballots.

Neighborhoods with two ongoing controversies brought out the largest numbers of voters Tuesday.

In District 6, within the neighborhood where a months-long controversy has erupted over plans to build a new Long Lots Elementary School on Hyde Lane (in District 7), threatening to uproot Westport Community Gardens, a total of 1,101 voters cast ballots.

And in District 9, encompassing the downtown area, where another long and heated debate has enveloped plans to redesign Parker Harding Plaza’s parking lot, 1,873 votes were recorded.

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The Planning and Zoning Commission political lineup technically is a toss-up.

The night’s big P&Z winner, Paul Lebowitz, is an unaffiliated voter, but ran with Democrats’ endorsement — and secured the largest total among the P&Z field with 5,907 votes.

The political affiliation of the panel’s other seats splits 3-3 — and P&Z members will pick someone new to fill the seat of the departing chairwoman, Danielle Dobin, who was elected to the Board of Finance on Tuesday.

In addition to the Dobin seat, the affiliated Democrats on the P&Z are Neil Cohn and Michael Cammeyer; and on the Republican side of the aisle are Amie Tesler and Patrizia Zucaro, re-elected incumbents, and newcomer Michael Calise.

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Dobin, meanwhile, tallied the third highest townwide tally of the night (6,083 votes) in her move to the Board of Finance, followed by the election of appointed incumbent, Jeff Hammer. Their victories secured Democrats’ control of that panel, now led by Lee Caney, the Democratic chairman.

Two new Republcans will join them, Liz Heyer, moving over from the Board of Education, and newcomer Rich Hightower.

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On the Zoning Board of Appeals, Jim Ezzes, the longtime chairman, keeps on rolling with another four-year term — he has been on the panel 28 years, 26 of them as chairman. That’s long enough to earn Ezzes the laurels as co-honoree of the Democratic Town Committee’s recent fall gala.

On Tuesday, voters also re-elected two Republicans, Liz Wong and Michelle Hopson, to the ZBA. There were no losers in the ZBA “contest.”

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Among the Representative Town Meeting results, surprises found in unexpected places.

A few incumbents were unseated — Harris Falk, who finished out of the money in District 2, and Brien Buckman in District 6, part of the neighborhood where the Long Lots Elementary School / Westport Community Gardens controversy has raged.

But other members enmeshed in current controversies — Jay Keenan, chairman of the Long Lots School Building Committee, and Jeff Wieser, the RTM moderator — both were re-elected.

In the Long Lots neighborhood — the school is in District 7, on the border of District 6, and neighbors from both districts vote at the school — newcomer David Rosenwaks broke through to join incumbent reps Candace Banks, Seth Braunstein and Jessica Bram from the field of seven candidates.

And in District 9, another RTM district where seven candidates competed for the four seats, former rep Jennifer Johnson returns to the legislative body with the highest vote total, joined by Nancy Kail, Sal Liccione and Kristin Schneeman.

District 9 is the site of Parker Harding Plaza, where a redesign project has generated months of controversy. Doug Enslin, who did not succeed in his bid for a seat, was one of those who mobilized opposition to the parking lot plans, posting an online petition that gained nearly 1,200 signatures.

John Suggs, another RTM member seeking to return to the legislative body, also fell short in his bid for a District 9 seat.

John Schwing, the Westport Journal consulting editor, has held senior editorial and writing posts at southwestern Connecticut media outlets for four decades. Learn more about us here.