It’s a race.
The often quiet election of Representative Town Meeting members heats up this fall as 10 candidates vie for seven vacancies in District 3. But the other five districts are not only absent of a race, there are a total of 21 vacant seats between them, leaving slots available to write-in candidates if any choose to run.
Recent redistricting moved many RTM members into new districts so the contested seats include all RTM incumbents, pitting veterans against each other as they seek to represent the town in its legislative body. There are no petitioning candidates seeking to knock out incumbents, as was the case in 2009 and in other elections.
Stephen Olvany, District 3 chairman, is up for his fourth term re-election this year, and said most of the issues pertinent to his constituents remain the same, such as flooding and affordable housing. But one contentious topic now falls within the third that was once in the first — potential sidewalks on Hoyt Street leading to the Talmadge Hill train station in New Canaan.
Longtime District 3 Rep. Gene Coyle, who’s served on the RTM since 1987 and is one of five members on the RTM’s Board of Ethics, said the shuffling around of RTM members means little in the grand scheme of town governance.
“It’s just balancing the scales,” said Coyle, who’s not up for re-election this year. “I really don’t think it makes any difference. They’re not going to vote any differently” in their new districts.
Jack Davis, formerly a D-5 representative, is one of the 10 people seeking seven seats in D-3. Davis is a member of the Finance & Budget Committee, and also serves as vice chairman in charge of watching the Board of Education’s budget during its development. Also moving from D-5 to D-3 is Dr. Robert George, who sits on the Public Works Committee.
Holly Schulz, formerly of D-1, is also seeking a spot in the third district. Schulz has been an outspoken proponent of bringing sidewalks to Hoyt Street, claiming it’s unsafe for commuters to walk along the street to the train station. Schulz is a member of the Public Works Committee.
Also moving over from D-1 to D-3 are Jose Cepeda, Cassandra Hegarty, David Kahn and Robert Kernan. Cepeda and Kernan were two of four members appointed to D-1 in January to fill vacancies. Hegarty is a member of the Public Health & Safety Committee and Kahn is chairman of the Public Works Committee. All are now seeking D-3 seats in the November election.
In addition to chairman Olvany, two more original District 3 members re seeking re-election this year — Robert Cardone, a member of the Parks & Recreation Committee, and Dennis Maroney, who sits on the Education Committee and the Rules Committee.
District 3 was also the only town district to lose seats after the redistricting, dropping from 18 to 16 seats. If the seat number had remained the same, the race would only knock out one incumbent instead of three. The decennial redistricting process, however, is why the apportionment has changed.
After the redistricting, districts 6 and 5 each gained a seat, leaving each at 17. District 4 is the only other place with only 16 RTM members, the rest having 17.
Incumbents had until late August to inform the town if they were running, and newcomers had until early September to get their name on the ballot. There is still time for write-in candidates to claim the 21 seats open in five districts, according to Donna Rajczewski, town clerk. Only one person, Carol Matton, has applied to be a write-in candidate to date. Matton is seeking a spot in D-2 where there are four vacancies, leaving the potential for three more write-ins to join the RTM there.
Rajczewski said write-in candidates must register with the town clerk’s office no later than noon on Monday, Nov. 5, the day before the election. To be elected, candidates must get at least 25 votes. If vacancies remain after the election, the districts have an opportunity to appoint residents and, if necessary, internally vote on the remaining positions. Write-ins who do not register with the town clerk and get 25 votes are not eligible to serve on the RTM, Rajczewski said.
Write-ins will not be publicized on the ballot, so those candidates are responsible for publicizing their candidacy, but must do so within election laws, such as staying at least 75 feet away from a polling place during the election.
The third district, which encompasses most everything west of Christie Hill Road up to New Canaan, was most drastically affected by the 2010 redistricting. Three members were sent to District 5, five District 1 members moved into 3, and two District 5 members moved into 3. To make matters even more confusing, an error in the original redistricting map sent one member from District 1 to 3, but correcting the error put him back in 1.
Many RTM members have retired from service or decided not to run again. District 1 has four people running, but there are 10 seats available, leaving the potential for six people to be appointed later. District 2 has 10 people running and 14 vacancies; D-4 has seven vacancies and four people running; D-5 has 10 vacancies and six people running; and District 6 has five people running with 10 available seats.
Retiring from D-6 after decades of service is moderator Karen Armour. Coyle said he’s sad to see her go after her many years of service and keeping the often-arduous meetings moving along smoothly.
RTM member Sarah Seelye is the expected replacement as moderator, but RTM members can nominate anyone on the RTM to serve in the position. The RTM holds the legislative powers for the town and is comprised of 100 members representing the town’s six districts. “The number of representatives from each district is determined annually by a flexible formula based on elector apportionment,” states the town website.
Write-in candidates can register at the town clerk’s office at Town Hall, 2 Renshaw Road, or call 203-656-7307 for more information.
Some voters were also moved from polling locations. Districts 6 and 2 have switched locations, with D-6 voters now voting at Town Hall, and D-2 voters at Tokeneke School. All other polling locations remain the same — District 1, Ox Ridge School; District 3, Holmes School; District 4, Hindley School; and District 5, the high school. However, these districts also have new borders after the redistricting.
For more information on which district you are now in, contact the registrar of voters at 203-656-7316 or email email@example.com or click here to read more stories on the recent redistricting.