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Race to replace Tesei is on

February 3, 2019

GREENWICH — The announcement from First Selectman Peter Tesei that he would not seek another term in Greenwich’s top elected position sent people scrambling for the start line of what could be a wide open 2019 municipal election.

After six terms, Tesei’s announcement that he will not run again created a void at the top of the Republican Party in town. Already two leaders in that party have expressed interested in filling it.

State Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151, and Board of Estimate and Taxation member Michael Mason had previously said they would be interested in running for the position if Tesei did not seek re-election. Following Tesei’s announcement, they that took that interest further.

Mason, the former chair of the BET, went so far as to declare himself an official candidate for first selectman.

“The town is losing a good leader,” Mason said. “(Tesei) is someone who has meant a lot to this community through all of his government service.”

Camillo also praised Tesei for his lifelong dedication to the town. But the six-term state representative did not go so far as to declare himself an official candidate yet.

“I want to express my gratitude to the many Republicans, Democrats, independents and unaffiliated voters who have reached out and offered their encouragement for me to run for first selectman,” Camillo said. “Their support has been overwhelming and I am truly honored by it. I will be making an announcement shortly.”

Former town Tax Collector Tod Laudonia has also been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for first selectman and on Friday he expressed serious interest in the position.

“That would be something I would explore,” Laudonia said.

Selectman John Toner, however, does not appear like he will be running for first selectman. The Republican did not reveal his plans on Friday at Tesei’s announcement but said he had made a decision about his political future.

Republican Town Committee Chair Richard DiPreta said the party is well positioned for the fall with “many qualified candidates.” However he did not tip his hand about which candidate the RTC might back.

“I know Peter’s decision to not seek a seventh term as first selectman was a difficult one,” DiPreta said. “Today I applaud the man that he is, and all that he has done for Greenwich. Tomorrow, Republicans will move forward together to continue his legacy of leadership in the First Selectman’s Office.”

There is also political uncertainty about what will happen with Greenwich Democrats as Selectman Sandy Litvack has not announced what his plans are for the 2019 election. Litvack did not answer this past week a question about whether he would seek a second term on the board or run again for first selectman but did say he would probably make an announcement in the next couple of weeks and that his answer was not dependent on what Tesei was going to do.

Litvack made waves in his run for first selectman in 2017, heavily cutting into Tesei’s margin of victory. While Tesei and Toner won with 75 percent of the vote in 2015, Litvack outperformed all other Democrats who had run against Tesei. In 2017’s race, Tesei got 54 percent of the vote.

Following the election, Litvack at first was uncertain whether he would serve as a selectman which, given Greenwich’s unique election laws, he was elected to do even though he ran for first selectman. He soon decided to join the board as a selectman.

Democratic Town Committee Chair Tony Turner said the party is optimistic about the fall election season.

“We began working as soon as the last election was over to recruit candidates to run at every level of the municipal election,” Turner said. “Not to sound too confident but there is truly a line at the door.”

Turner, a member of the BET, said for now he will not be a candidate for first selectman, saying the work in the Greenwich Democratic Party is not done, but he did not close the door to the idea completely. He said there would be a lot more talk within the party about who will make up the ticket.

“I think Peter’s announcement will help to accelerate conversations for all the positions,” Turner said. “We’re feeling very good about it. We know it will be a hard fought race but there is some advantage to running for an open seat as opposed to unseating an incumbent.”

In addition to Litvack’s unexpectedly good results in 2017, Greenwich Democrats have seen their fortunes change for the better in the last two election cycles. In 2017, Democrat Howard Richman was elected as tax collector and the party won control of the BET for the first time in Greenwich history.

Then in 2018, Greenwich Democrats broke Republicans’ historic stranglehold on the town’s seats in the state Legislature. A Democrat from town won a seat in the state Senate for the first time in roughly 80 years, and in the state House for the first time in more than a century.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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