Top 10 stories of 2012 — No. 8: Darien sees challenger for state rep race

Terrie Wood, left, had her first challenger in four years — Rob Werner — for Connecticut State Rep., District 141.

Terrie Wood, left, had her first challenger in four years — Rob Werner — for Connecticut State Rep., District 141.

Many people were surprised when Darien resident Rob Werner stepped up to challenge incumbent State Rep. Terrie Wood.

Wood, a Republican, was campaigning for her third term, and had previously run unopposed. Werner was a new face in town politics when he announced his campaign in May 2012. The state general assembly had a Democratic majority, and Connecticut Senators and Congressmen were Democrats as well.

The campaigns revealed that both candidates’ priorities were very similar: Amend 8-30g and create legislation favorable to the environment.

Wood had a fairly straightforward record on the issues, and as a moderate Republican. She frequently noted her ability to work across party lines.

Werner painted himself as a Darien parent and Hartford native. He put his career, which included law and speechwriting, on hold to take care of his son. His life in Hartford gave him some insight on the relationship between urban and suburban communities, he said.

On 8-30g, a regulation that requires towns to have at least 10% of its housing classified as affordable, Wood was working on amendments to allow inclusionary zoning and more weight to senior housing.

Werner also acknowledged that the town needed some help reaching the goal. He proposed that financial incentives for senior housing were necessary. His most surprising idea was a penalty per unit, which would be paid to neighboring towns, like Stamford and Norwalk, which could handle affordable housing.

Wood had worked on legislation to protect homes and the environment as part of the Shoreline Preservation Task Force, she said. She was also the co-founder of the Darien Environmental Group.

Werner noted his concern about invasive species in the Long Island Sound. He would have proposed state-wide fundraisers to support veterans.

At a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters, Werner clarified a few points on which he and Wood differed. He pointed out that Wood voted to repeal paid sick leave, and voted against forced unionization — both of which he would not have done. Unions are a strong force over actions in Hartford, Werner noted.

Possibly the most memorable part of the campaign was its civility. Whereas some elections are marked by mudslinging, Wood and Werner appeared friendly both in person and in print.

“I will only say positive things about Terrie Wood,” Werner said back in October. “One of the things I’m going to do at a local level, is elevate these elections to get away from the vitriol, and the partisanship and the bickering.”

Werner was a “fair” opponent, Wood said, because he stuck to the issues. On election night, Werner walked into Republican headquarters to congratulate Wood on her third term. She won with a majority — 5601 votes to Werner’s 1966.

“I congratulate Terrie Wood for winning a clean, honest and high-minded race and I am sure she will continue to do an excellent job representing the citizens of our district,” Werner said. “I am proud of the efforts put in by my campaign team and I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we conducted ourselves.”

Werner noted that he had no future political plans.

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