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Monday, October 17, 2011

Senior voters are a bloc to reckon with in November

As published in the Record Journal, Monday October 10, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

Voters 70 and older outnumber voters 18 to 30 years old, and that may weigh heavily in the campaign styles of the two candidates for mayor.

Of 24,603 registered voters in Wallingford, 4,352 are 70 or older and 3,400 are 18 to 30.

Just under half of the older voters — 1,999 — are unaffiliated, 1,518 are Democrats and 835 are Republicans. Among voters between 18 and 30, 2,122 are unaffiliated, 845 are Democrats, and 433 are registered Republicans.

Republican Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., 64, the second- longest serving mayor in the state, is running against Democratic Town Councilor Vincent Testa Jr., a 51-year-old substitute teacher. It’s the second time Testa has run for the office; he lost a lopsided contest to Dickinson in 1997.

Testa said he knows the voter statistics and agrees that many planks in his platform came about because of the concerns of seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes and worried about cuts in services. He said he has recently visited Ashlar Village, a retirement community, and the Wallingford Senior Center.

Late last year, Dickinson caused controversy when he trimmed paramedic service to meet union arbitration award costs.

“That’s a very critical issue to them,” Testa said. “And they’re also very concerned about taxes. My message to them is that I’m working to reverse that trend we’re in right now of cutting services. Historically, older folks vote more consistently, especially in local elections.”

According to Democratic Registrar of Voters Samuel Carmody, total unaffiliated voters as of Friday outnumbered Democrats and Republicans combined, with 12,909 unaffiliated, 4,462 Republican
and 7,202 Democratic. Thirty voters are registered as “other.”
Dickinson said he was not aware of the uneven distribution of voters by age. He said party affiliation and age of voters have no effect on his overall message.

“We really try to reach all voters,” he said. “While being on a fixed income has its own drawbacks, there’s also a concern for the younger person who can’t find employment. All of the aspects of the economy are driven by how many people are working. They’re all interlocked, and each is a piece of a bigger problem. Everyone has his or her challenge in general; I’m not sure it’s limited to one age group or another.”

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