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Monday, July 15, 2013

Caucuses will fill November ballot

As published in the Record Journal Friday July 12, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224       

WALLINGFORD — Candidates for mayor, Town Council and Board of Education will be endorsed at party caucuses Wednesday night.

At 7 p.m., the Democratic Town Committee will meet on the second floor of 350 Center St, said committee Chairman Vinnie Avallone. The Republican Town Committee will meet at the same time at Dag Hammarskjold Middle School on Pond Hill Road, said Chairman Bob Prentice.

Six Democrats, including two incumbents — Nick Economopoulos and John Sullivan — have announced that they are running for the council next term, Avallone said. Jason Zandri will give up his council seat to run for mayor. Other council candidates include former councilor and mayoral candidate Vinnie Testa, as well as Debbie Reynolds, Dana Camp and Larry Russo. Avallone said the four current Democrats on the Board of Education will seek endorsement, as will newcomer Patricia Mills.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., a Republican, has announced he will seek re-election. Prentice said Republicans will end up running seven candidates for Town Council. With the exception of Rosemary Rascati, who has announced she will not seek reelection, all the incumbents will run. In addition, former Councilor Ray Rys and current Board of Education member Christine Mansfield will be seeking council seats, Prentice said. The four Republican Board of Education incumbents, minus Mansfield, will seek re-election, he said, adding that the committee is still looking to add two candidates to the Board of Education ticket.

“It’s not official till the caucus is over,” Prentice said.

On the Republican side, a single ballot is normally cast to endorse the entire slate of candidates during the caucus, Prentice said.

Since only six Democrats are seeking council seats, that can happen, on the Democratic side as well, Avallone said. The alternative would be for a nomination and vote for each candidate, he added.

Candidates must file financial registration with the town clerk’s office by 4 p.m. July 29, said Town Clerk Barbara Thompson. This paperwork includes reports on campaign finances. Candidates must file with the office “even if they’re not going to raise money,” Thompson said. If they don’t file in time, they will be subject to a $100 fine, she said.

As of Thursday, Zandri, Dickinson, Camp and Rys have filed paperwork with the office. Zandri is the only candidate to have raised money for his campaign so far.

Zandri has raised $14,335, with $10,107 still unspent. According to paperwork filed with the town clerk’s office, Zandri has spent his campaign money on office supplies. He also spent $200 on three occasions for the services of What’s Next, a political consulting firm based in Wethersfield. Zandri said the firm is developing walking routes so he can efficiently campaign door-to-door, because “you need to knock on the right door,” he said. Zandri also spent $980 in campaign money for the services of The Vinci Group, a Manchester consulting firm that organizes fundraisers, Zandri said, including the July 24 event at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn on South Colony Road. The event will be hosted by local state Reps. Mary Mushinsky and Mary Fritz. Lt Gov. Nancy Wyman will be a special guest at the event, Zandri said.

“It’s generating a lot of interest at the state level, too,” Avallone said of Zandri’s campaign. “There’s a lot of energy.”

Zandri said he has already begun his door-to-door campaigning. Support so far has been positive, he said, with the only negative being that people are upset he won’t be a town councilor anymore.

Dickinson said he will look to begin fundraising in the coming weeks.

“It’s putting the plans together,” he said. “I can’t do a lot of door-to-door, but I try to do some.”

A lot of the work is behind the scenes putting literature and mailings together.

“That’s what most of the campaign money goes into,” he said, adding that there is a lot of assistance from the Republican Town Committee, as well as non-committee members in town.

Prentice said Dickinson’s run for mayor is “usually a pretty simple campaign.”

“He never takes any credit for anything, he said. “That’s what kills me.”

Both mayoral candidates said they support their parties’ Town Council and Board of Education candidates, and view them as teammates in the race for mayor.

Thompson said Prentice and Avallone must file their certificate of endorsement with her office by July 24. This paperwork officially lists whom each party endorses. Throughout the state, all candidates for election must be endorsed between July 16 and July 23.