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Friday, September 30, 2011

FROM WALLINGFORD - Of ballot and position

As published in the Record Journal, Sunday September 25, 2011.


This week’s FROM WALLINGFORD was written by Mike Brodinsky a former town councilor from Wallingford, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee, and host of public access show “Citizen Mike”

The Citizen Mike show airs on cable Channel 18 at 9 p.m. every night, except Sunday. It can also be viewed on demand at Comments or suggestions can be sent to

If you can’t catch the show on TV you can catch it online on their Video On Demand page.

The ballot is now set for the election of Town Councilors on November 8. The names of the six Democratic candidates for Council are in the top row. That’s Row A. Democrats get the top row because the Governor is Democratic. That’s the rule. The row of Republican candidates is below on Row B.

This format may make it appear to some that we have six individual, head-to-head contests with a Democrat on the top row facing off against the Republican directly below. But as experienced voters know, that’s not the case. Voters have nine votes, and they can select any candidate from Row A or Row B. A voter may spread nine votes around at his/her complete and uncontrolled discretion, regardless of the rows or positioning of the candidates within the rows Nevertheless, the ballot can cause pre-election angst for some candidates. Some may be concerned about their position on the ballot, which is chosen by lot. A candidate may fret, “Will I be first in the row or last? Who will be above (or below) my name? Will that matter?” They all want a good “draw.” But what is a “good draw” and what makes it good?

Republican Councilor Rosemary Rascati said she’d be looking at the name above hers because she is concerned that the “matchup” might affect her vote count. She is worried that some may vote for whoever is above her name and wrongly think that they cannot, therefore, vote for her. Newcomer candidate Democrat Debbie Reynolds’ name is above Rosemary’s. Debbie probably has similar thoughts about Rosemary’s name being below hers. Typically, a candidate wants to first on the row. There is no chance of being overlooked in that spot. Incumbent Councilor Craig Fishbein, however, downplayed his first-in-line spot on Row B, and he said that he’d rather be second in line. Maybe Craig is attempting to tamp down expectations. But the way Craig explains it, he thinks he might have a technical advantage if he had the second position on the ballot and not the first position. Incumbent Democratic Councilor John Sullivan is on top of Craig, first in line in Row A. I doubt that John is complaining about that draw.

Has any candidate ever said that he wanted to be at the end of the row? If any candidate said that, it might be Democratic Councilor Nick Economopoulos, whose name is dead last on Row A. He’s on top of newcomer, Republican Tom Laffin who drew the last spot on the Republican row. A last place draw on the ballot is a tough assignment for a rookie, according to conventional wisdom. Tom probably wants to say to voters, “Please do not use up all nine votes before you get to me.” But for being last, maybe Tom gets a beneficial underdog effect, whatever that is.

Even though candidates worry about it, the position of a name on the ballot makes no difference in Wallingford.

What makes the difference is lots of personal contacts and name recognition. With lawn signs and newspaper ads, and in some cases door-to-door campaigning, candidates try to create name recognition by being visible, hoping voters will perceive favorable distinctions while offering little substance. So, if you own a corner lot in a high traffic area, your property is very valuable to a candidate looking for a lawn sign location. Just don’t corner that candidate with a tough question.

Campaigns for Council are not based upon the issues, usually, because running on the issues is tough, risky, expensive — - and, therefore, rare. If a candidate gets too specific about where he stands, he could lose votes. Specific issues are very complicated. Ads and lawn signs aren’t. Ads and lawn signs add to valuable name recognition without the risks that go along with explaining issues. So issues get lost.

By the way, what are the issues in this campaign?

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