Voter interest up for primary
STAMFORD — A primary during the dog days of summer doesn’t draw many voters, but Tuesday’s turnout may exceed the single-digit percentages that are the norm.
That’s if the number of absentee ballots is any indication.
As of Friday, Democrats in Stamford returned more absentee ballots than were cast for the 2016 presidential primary, which had a huge turnout, said Ron Malloy, the city’s Democratic registrar of voters.
The number of absentee ballots requested by Republican voters for Tuesday is also on track to surpass the primary of two years ago, he said.
“This is an interesting statistic,” Malloy said. “Maybe it’s because the 2016 primary was in April and this one is in August, when a lot of people are on vacation and voting absentee, I don’t know. But it’s a greater number than we would otherwise expect.”
As of Friday, 502 Democrats and 209 Republicans had returned absentee ballots, Malloy said.
Other factors indicate increased interest in Tuesday’s primary.
Voter registration in Stamford continues to climb, said Lucy Corelli, the city’s Republican registrar. As of Friday, the city had 68,033 voters, or about 400 more than this time last year, when registration had already surged 18 percent in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
Another sign of interest is the number of voters seeking to change political parties, Malloy said.
“We’re getting loads of phone calls, but you can’t change from Democrat to Republican or vice versa within 90 days of the primary and then vote in the primary,” Malloy said.
Unaffiliated voters, however, may join a party until noon Monday to vote on Tuesday.
“But you have to do it in person and you can’t have been a member of any party within the last 90 days,” Malloy said.
His office will not have data on the party-switching until after the primary, he said.
In Stamford, Democrats will decide between two candidates for governor, and Republicans will choose among five. Party members also must pick candidates for the offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and comptroller, and two state House of Representatives seats — Stamford’s District 146 and District 147.
Two Republicans — Anzelmo Graziosi, of Stamford, and Darien’s Marcy Minnick — are vying for the seat in District 147, which includes Springdale, the Ridges, North Stamford, Westover and western Darien.
Graziosi, a city representative from District 13, said he is seeking the seat to help solve Connecticut’s “unprecedented fiscal crisis due to decades of out-of-control spending and failure to adequately save for retirement benefits” for state employees.
“Power has been concentrated in the hands of a few that have unfairly engineered our elections, legislative process and finances for their own entrenchment and enrichment,” said Graziosi, an attorney and married father of five, four of them Stamford public school students. “Taxes and spending have become so excessive that people and employers have been driven out of their homes and places of doing business. Government regulations have erected barriers to business, while inadequate education and infrastructure hold our state back.”
On the Board of Representatives, Graziosi, a former Democrat, has made headlines for speaking out against city spending and for bucking his party after leaders in May endorsed Matt Blumenthal, a newcomer to District 147 and son of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Graziosi said he switched parties, but not positions.
“When I’m out talking to people, they have almost universally heard about Sen. Blumenthal’s son moving to the district just to run for office, and they think it is wrong,” said Graziosi, 46. “Some say, ‘we understand — we were Democrats, too, when we were young.’ I tell them I’m also running on the independent line, the same as I did when I ran for the Board of Representatives as a Democrat. I’ve always been independent.”
That helps when people tell him they can’t vote for a Republican because they oppose President Donald Trump, Graziosi said.
“I tell them what goes on in Washington is completely different from what goes on in Hartford, and we have to make a distinction,” he said. “I am just as upset with Trump’s personal behavior as they are.”
Minnick has also switched parties, state voter registration records show. She switched from Republican to Democrat in 2012, then back to Republican in 2016, records show.
Minnick, 40, who runs a 25-employee family business, Excello Tool Engineering & Manufacturing, said she changed parties to vote in the Republican presidential primary two years ago.
“I was always conservative, voting on policy rather than party. I come from a strong Republican family,” said Minnick, a married mother of three. “I registered as a Democrat at 18 years old. I wanted to save the world in a social way. As I got older, I became more aware of fiscal responsibilities, how businesses work, paying taxes, and I became aware that my ideologies were Republican.”
Minnick said she works at the state level to create education and training programs designed to fill worker shortages.
“Businesses are begging for skilled employees,” she said.
Stamford Republicans did not seriously consider her candidacy because more than four-fifths of District 147 is in Stamford, Minnick said. She petitioned her way onto the ballot to challenge Graziosi on Tuesday.
On the campaign trail, she tells Stamford Republicans, “I was not nominated as a candidate based on my ZIP code,” Minnick said. “Because I had a complex way to get on the ballot — I had to go out and gather 210 signatures — I think it shows I am determined to stay on track, I have a strong work ethic, and I don’t back down when things get tough.”
People might have a misconception about her because she lives in Darien, Minnick said, but “I’m worried about how to pay for my kids to go to college, how to make car payments each month, how pay for my retirement, like a lot of people.”
Democrats on Tuesday will chose between two candidates for the District 146 seat — David Michel, the party’s endorsed candidate, and Terry Adams, the two-term incumbent and a longtime member of the Stamford Board of Representatives. District 146 includes downtown, the South End and Shippan.
Michel, 43, an eyewear distributor, has long been active in Stamford organizing cleanups along the shore and advocating for the environment.
That volunteer work started him “looking at other issues, and I saw they are all linked,” Michel said. “I began to take on the issues of people I met because they were getting no response from government.”
He worked on behalf of homeless people, residents involved in zoning controversies, and the efforts of union workers. It won him the Democratic Party’s endorsement over the incumbent Adams.
“When someone tells me they have an issue, I listen. Politicians can’t do anything without the people,” said Michel, who takes notes on the things voters tell him. “If you are not talking with the people, how do you know what the issues are? If I win the state office, I will be a liaison between the city, the state and the constituents.”
Michel said he decided to run because he believes he could be more effective as a state legislator than as a local advocate.
“I am genuinely offering to work for the people,” he said. “I’m just a normal person who’s had enough. When I talk to people, I see that they agree on a lot of things, and a lot of the things that need to be fixed require common sense.”
Adams, 59, a South End resident, could not be reached for comment last week. He won the District 146 state House seat in 2013, while representing Stamford’s District 3 on the Board of Representatives. Adams, a Pitney Bowes employee, began his eighth term on the board in November.
Adams sits on the Democratic City Committee, which chooses party candidates, and is president of the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone.