As published in the Record Journal, Thursday July 21, 2011
By Adam Wittenberg
WALLINGFORD — The Democratic Town Committee nominated its slate of candidates Wednesday, hoping to take back majorities on the Town Council and Board of Education and win the mayor’s office for the first time since the early 1980s.
Vincent F. Testa Jr. will be at the top of the ticket. The veteran town councilor and former school board member lost his 1997 bid for mayor by a wide margin, but pledged things would be different this time.
“I’m honored, I’m thrilled, I’m excited and I can’t wait to hit the trail with the great people that are going to be nominated this evening,” Testa said. “We’re just going to have a really good night on Nov. 8.”
The Democrats have not come close to defeating Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. — a Republican and the secondlongest- serving top municipal official in the state — since Michael Brodinsky ran in 2003. The Democrats did not endorse a mayoral candidate in 2009.
The party nominated six council candidates — the most seats it can win because of minority party representation rules. Those same rules guarantee it will hold at least three seats, which it does now. The rules also apply to the school board, where Republicans have a 5-4 edge.
For the council, incumbents John Sullivan and Nicholas Economopoulos will run alongside Robin Hettrick, Donald Harwood, Debbie Reynolds and Jason Zandri.
All but Reynolds have run for council before.
Harwood, who was chairman of the School Building Committee during a $72 million overhaul of 11 schools, was unsuccessful in 2009. Zandri, a computer systems administrator who helps raise money for the town’s annual fireworks display, lost in 2007. Hettrick, town committee vice chairman and a former Zoning Board of Appeals member, did not win in 2005.
Reynolds, a business analyst at The Hartford, hasn’t run previously but is the mother of Jesse S. Reynolds, who lost council bids in 2007 and 2009. Jesse Reynolds nominated his mother as well as his father, Patrick, who is trying to win back a seat on the Board of Education.
Patrick Reynolds, who teaches science at the high school and college levels, won a term on the board in 2007 but lost in the last election.
The Democrats’ school board slate includes four incumbents: Michael Votto, Valerie A. Ford, Jay Cei and Kathy Castelli, the board’s secretary; and one newcomer, David Leonardo.
A 2006 Sheehan High School graduate, Leonardo graduated from the University of Connecticut in May with a degree in history.
He is an intern with John Larson’s re-election campaign for the 1st District U.S. House seat and is helping with the mayoral campaigns of Dan Drew in Middletown and Testa.
Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone praised Leonardo’s involvement and said he was pleased with the candidates.
“I feel we have one of the best slates all the way around,” Avallone said.
Sarah Nathan / Record-Journal
Wallingford resident Vincent F. Testa stands to be acknowledged after being nominated as the Democratic candidate for mayor at the Democratic Town Committee meeting in Wallingford.