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Democratic primary Two vie for post of registrar of voters

August 9, 2018

GREENWICH — Greenwich Democrats have a choice to make in next week’s primary in the race for registrar of voters.

Mary Hegarty and Joe Huley are running for the Democratic position, which is currently held by Michael Aurelia, who is not running for another two-year term. Hegarty received the endorsement of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, while Huley petitioned his way onto the ballot by collecting enough signatures.

The registrar of voters race, the only local one on the Greenwich primary ballot, also includes statewide contests such as the one for governor.

“I think (the DTC) had a very good opportunity to assess our qualifications,” Hegarty said, pointing to the 42-10 vote by the DTC to support her. “I think I received a strong endorsement because I have dedicated myself to improving voter participation. I have a long-standing interest in voter issues.”

She put an initiative in place inside the DTC for the 2018 election to mobilize its 75 and appoint “block captains” all over town. Each member will work to get Democrats in their assigned “turf” to get out and vote in November.

“I hope and believe it will boost voter engagement and participation,” Hegarty said.

For Huley, the decision to petition onto the primary ballot came because the DTC endorsement was not unanimous. He said he received a lot of encouragement to run in the primary so a larger group of voters could decide.

“The registrar of voters is all about voting and our system of free and fair elections,” he said. “I have been working on this for 20 years in all positions within the town, and it is natural for me to seek this job because I have held every job but this one. I’m easily the best qualified.”

Huley has served as a moderator for polling places in District 11, been the moderator for counting absentee ballots and done Election Day registration, signing up citizens who are not registered to vote on the day of a general election.

The town has a Democratic and a Republican registrar. The two share the office and work together on voter registration, canvassing registrations to make sure they’re accurate and running the polling stations on Election Day. The Republican and Democrat do not run against each other in November, so the Democrat who wins Tuesday’s primary will run unopposed in November and is essentially guaranteed the position.

Republican Registrar of Voters Fred DeCaro faces no opposition as he runs for re-election this fall with the full support of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee. DeCaro, who is seeking his sixth term in office, said he was looking forward to working with either of the Democratic candidates.

Hegarty, 65, is an attorney and has previously served on the Representative Town Meeting and the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission. A longtime resident of Greenwich, she said her engagement on voting goes back decades, noting that she was Greenwich’s co-chair in the effort in the late 1960s to lower the voting age in America to 18.

And with her legal training and passion for voting, she said she is well suited for the office. Ever since her endorsement by the DTC, she has served as a deputy registrar of voters, working under Aurelia.

“People understand I am fully capable of exercising all aspects of this job due to my background as an attorney and I know the demands of this job,” Hegarty said. “I like it. I have a lot of energy and creativity, and I am going to bring that to the job.”

Huley, a lifelong resident who will celebrate his 60th birthday next week, is a Realtor in town and a former member of the RTM. He said he loves the impartial nature of the registrar of voters and both the state and the town’s ongoing commitment to getting out the vote, a contrast, Huley said, to other states that restrict voting rights.

“This is the core of our democracy,” he said. “It’s so important that people come out to vote and get involved. Greenwich won the Democracy Cup for having the most voter turnout in the state for the 2016 presidential election, and I want us to win that every year.”

Hegarty said her campaign slogan of “every vote matters” is also how she will approach the job if elected, with a focus on increasing voter turnout and maximizing voter registrations. Most of the nonpartisan job is to make sure the town is running fair elections, she said.

Due to his experience, Huley said he would hit the ground running if elected. He wants to focus on Greenwich’s youth, getting high school students involved by registering to vote and working at the polls.

“They need to know they can make a difference,” Huley said. “We need to make our high school kids more involved and enthused about voting.”

The registrar of voters race is the only municipal office on the ballot this November. The other town offices, including Board of Selectmen, Board of Estimate and Taxation, Representative Town Meeting and Tax Collector, will all be decided in 2019.

The DTC has stayed out of the primary race but has noted its endorsement of Hegarty. DTC Chair Tony Turner did that again Thursday and offered no additional statement.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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