Jul. 29—GROTON — Democrats, who control the Town Council, announced a council slate that did not include incumbent Portia Bordelon, though she received endorsements for Board of Education and Representative Town Meeting.
Republicans put forward a slate with both newcomers and people long involved in town politics, and are vying to reestablish two-party rule on the Town Council, which has been all-Democratic for the past two election cycles.
Democrats on Wednesday announced a slate that included council incumbents Juliette Parker, administrative assistant to the Groton City police chief; Rachael Franco, business manager at Norwich Family Dental Associates; Juan Melendez, who also has served on the RTM and Water Pollution Control Authority; Aundré Bumgardner, a city Planning and Zoning Commission members and former state representative; and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Conrad Heede.
For the council, Democrats also endorsed newcomer David McBride, who is New London's finance director and former Thames River Innovation Place director, and RTM members Edward 'Eddy' Jacome, who recently worked at the Connecticut General Assembly as an assistant clerk for the Veterans' Affairs Committee; Melinda Cassiere, who has a background in law enforcement and volunteer firefighting; and Bruce Jones, a retired small business owner of a graphic design firm, author and product developer.
Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky and Councilors Lian Obrey and Joe Zeppieri are not running for reelection.
In a council slate filed Tuesday with the town clerk, Republicans endorsed: Bill Furgueson, a retired teacher who works for a nonprofit and serves on the Historic District Commission; Scott Westervelt, an engineer who is co-chairperson of the Mystic Oral School Advocates, a group opposed to a proposed development at the oral school site; RTM member Kathy Chase, who has been very involved in local politics; and Emma Giunipero, an engineer who is new to Groton politics, Republican Town Committee Chairman John Scott said.
For the council, they further endorsed Diane Barber, a former councilor long involved in local politics; Scott, who is also a former state representative and former town councilor; Jenn White, who works in the finance group for a defense contractor and served on the Charter Review Commission; Robert Boris, who owns a business in town and recently relocated to the area and wants to get involved; and Bonnie Nault, a realtor and former town councilor, Scott said.
"We're excited to have a good team of people that are going to be working together for the benefit of the town," Scott said Wednesday. "We as a party are pretty disturbed at the dysfunction that we're seeing with the current Council, which is all one-party rule. I think that it's time for some change in Groton government: better management, better control over this extraordinarily, large unwanted project in Old Mystic, the Mystic Oral School. I think it's a good idea to have two parties for better conversation and better management of the town."
More than 20 people, including members of the Mystic Oral School Advocates as well as people expressing support for Bordelon, held signs for her last week in front of the Groton Senior Center before the DTC endorsement meeting.
Resident Mary Ellen Furlong noted that Bordelon asks intelligent questions and said it seems she is treated differently than other councilors, while Ken Mayer, who has spoken in opposition of the proposed development at the Mystic Oral School, said he came out to support Bordelon and her opposition to the proposed development. He said she is willing to challenge the status quo, members of her own party and fellow councilors.
"She's been willing to listen," Mayer said. "She asks the tough questions."
Heede, the DTC chairman, said in a statement Wednesday that "This Council has been highly effective in many respects, accomplished (a lot) over the past two years, but this past year has also been stressful for all of us. Under normal conditions, politics is messy, emotional and difficult even among friends and family."
He said many people on the Democratic Town Committee voted for Bordelon last week, just not enough to win a council endorsement.
"I believe she is a good councilor and I know she is disappointed about the outcome, but looking at the results of endorsements across the State, there are several cases where incumbents have not been endorsed," Heede said in the statement. "This is not unique to Groton. I am happy to say that she was nominated for and won endorsement for BOE. I know she has already been a strong advocate for our students and will be a positive addition to the BOE team. She was also nominated for the RTM where she started."
"I won't speak to how 62 other people voted, but I can say that I believe our job as a DTC is to nominate a slate that can work together effectively even as they disagree, sometimes passionately," he added. "Our slate is diverse: racially, ethnically and in terms of age, gender, opinions and experiences, AND they represent every area of Town. We're very proud of that diversity. They disagree about many things, often passionately, just as the people of Groton don't always agree."
Heede also said it had nothing to do with the Mystic Oral School property and noted that "there is no project" and the developer has not submitted an application to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The DTC meeting was the "final nail in the coffin" that prompted DTC Secretary Dane Stevenson, who also said he leans more left than the party, to decide to resign from the committee, in solidarity with Bordelon.
"While I am disappointed with the outcome of the committee vote and frustrated with the process of how it came to be, I am glad to have received the committee's nomination for BOE and RTM," Bordelon said in a statement Wednesday. "Although running for Town Council is my first preference, I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve the community of Groton in any capacity and I will continue to explore other options to do so. I would also like to thank all of those in the Democratic Party and the community at large who gave me their support."
"I believe it is important for elected representatives to engage their duties with passionate advocacy, vigorous debate and the courage to ask critical questions," she added. "Regardless of whatever position I may be nominated for or elected to serve, I will continue to bring these qualities to bear for the betterment of the Town of Groton."
For Board of Education, Democrats endorsed Bordelon; RTM member Michael Whitney; Beverly Washington and Katrina Fitzgerald, two RTM members who formerly served on the school board; and Matthew Shulman, who is new to Groton politics, according to the news release from the Democrats on Wednesday.
Heede said Board of Education members Lee White, Rosemary Robertson and Jane Giulini decided not to run for reelection, but continue to support the board and students.
The Democrats endorsed incumbent Betsy Moukawsher for town clerk.
For RTM, the Democrats endorsed Joe Baril, Roscoe Merritt, Shelia Perry and Adam Puccino for District 1; Syma Ebbin, Jacome, and Washington for District 2; Bordelon, Autumn Hanscom, Jill Rusk and Ian Thomas for District 3; Sue Hainline, Kristen Powers, Shawn Powers, Jamie Veazie-Williams and Obrey for District 4; Cassiere, Gary Welles, Whitney and Matt Ivey for District 5; Richard Semeraro, Fitzgerald, James Gustavson, Al Fritsche for District 6; and Clarence Casper, Bruce Jones, Emily Ray and Jacqui Copp for District 7.
Granatosky, town mayor and councilor since 2017, said it has been an honor to serve the town.
"The past year has been challenging for all of us," she said in a statement. "As you know, I'm a teacher, and students and teachers have had a particularly challenging year. Add in my role as Councilor, and as Mayor, and I find my plate very full. I need to step back for a bit. Thank you to the people of Groton for the opportunity to serve. We have a wonderful community and I have done my best to honor the trust you instilled in me."
Obrey said her business takes a good amount of time, but she wants to stay involved because she cares about Groton, so she is instead running for election to the RTM. She has served on the RTM before and thought one meeting a month, versus four or five on the council, might work better at this point in her life.
Zeppieri said he has made his contribution to his community for four years but has to step back due to other commitments.
For Board of Education, Republicans endorsed Andrea Ackerman, a long-serving board member and retired teacher; Dean Antipas, a board member, lawyer and former town councilor; newcomers Thomas Frickman, a teacher, and Dan Hetzel, an engineer and RTC member, Scott said.
Republicans endorsed Bruce McDermott for town clerk, but he is serving as a placeholder and the committee is interviewing another candidate, Scott said.
For RTM, the committee endorsed Karin Adams and Chase in District 1; Harry A. Watson and Robert Boris in District 2; Robert Bailey in District 4; Susan Dean Shinbrot and Scott in District 5; Barber, Frickman, Antipas and Giunipero in District 6; and Lynn Crockett-Hubbard in District 7.