ONCE AGAIN, FOR SOME REASON, MY WEEKLY COLUMN THAT APPEARS IN PRINT EVERY SUNDAY FAILED TO GO ONLINE FRIDAY NIGHT. SO, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO LOOK FOR IT ONLINE, HERE IT IS.
The 2011 Greenwich election season is off to an early start.
Greenwich Democrats, hoping to get a jump on the Republicans, will vote on a slate of candidates this Wednesday at the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee’s May meeting. The timing is unprecedented.
Such an early endorsement meeting is designed to accelerate the campaign momentum that is already gathering for First Selectman candidate, John Blankley, and Selectman Drew Marzullo. It will also bring the names of the rest of the Democratic candidates before the public well in advance of the Republican endorsements, which will not take place until July.
But how is it possible for the Democrats to endorse a slate of candidates as early as May? This is the question many people have been asking.
By law, all parties must follow the Secretary of State’s calendar. And, according to this calendar, official party endorsements for the November 8, 2011 election must be made between July 19 and July 26, 2011, and cannot be made at any other time.
There is probably no Democratic Town Committee member more knowledgeable than Mary McNamee when it comes to rules and procedures, and very few with her institutional memory. Mary, who served nearly thirty years as a Democratic State Central Committee member, was among the first to raise questions about the May candidate endorsements.
Beth Krumeich who, along with her husband Ed currently serves as a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, provided me with an email response to some of the questions. She indicates that the Democratic Town Committee sought approval from the Chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee to hold the May meeting and express the DTC’s “intent to endorse” candidates. The Town Committee will still hold a convention in July to legally endorse candidates.
The answer provided by Krumeich is consistent with what a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office told me. I was informed that, while town committees may hold unofficial meetings earlier than July in order “to hash out any issues so that the official meeting will go smoothly,” the official endorsement must be made during the prescribed time in July.
If Wednesday’s meeting is characterized as an “unofficial” meeting in the language used by the Secretary of State’s Office, then by that definition, the early vote on the candidate slate should also be characterized as “unofficial.” There would be no official and legally binding endorsements until July.
But according to the DTC April minutes, “the May 11th votes will be binding for the formal convention.” This is curious. No one offers an explanation of how this is legally possible.
Of course, there is no problem as long as the town committee’s May votes are not controversial, and for the most part they are not. But enforcing unofficial votes as binding for an official legal endorsement meeting two months later could become a serious issue if there are primary challenges and petitions.
Such could happen with nominations for the Board of Education. These nominations will revolve around the perennial issue of how many candidates the party should field.
Each party may put up four candidates, but only two from each party are elected. When a party endorses more than two, it allows for voter choice. But the downside is that the race becomes a primary in the general election, and usually a Democratic primary. Historically, the Republicans have almost never put up more than two candidates.
This year the DTC executive committee has endorsed only two BOE candidates. However, a third candidate who lost out in an extremely close executive committee vote is seeking the full town committee’s endorsement.
If the full town committee limits the endorsement to two, a third and fourth candidate can petition into the remaining two ballot slots, although some seem to think, probably erroneously, that candidates who fail to win the party endorsement would have to petition onto another line.
To avoid potential legal challenges, the DTC would do well not to become mired in the matter of whether or not the May vote is binding for July. Let the May meeting be unofficial. Let the legal meeting be in July. Wednesday’s meeting should not detract from the desired campaign momentum.