Stevenson easily earns fourth term; Opponent Richards loses board seat

Selectman Rob Richards conceding the win to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson at The Goose Tuesday night — Laureen Vellante photo

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson was elected to another term in office, defeating challenger and Board of Selectman member Rob Richards by a margin of 2470 votes to 944. Chris Noe totaled 24 votes.

In a surprising turn of events, all four Selectman candidates garnered more votes than Richards, meaning Richards will be left off the Board of Selectmen entirely. Stevenson will be joined by Kip Koons, Marc Thorne, Susan Marks, and Pamela Sparkman. Sparkman is the newcomer to the board, having previously served on the RTM Education Committee.

The Board of Selectmen is filled with the winner from the first selectman race, and then the next top four vote getters of those who ran for first selectman and Board of Selectmen. There is a state law that limits party representation on the board to three members of the same political affiliation, which means the board is typically 3-2 split. A 4-1 split is possible, but this is rare. For the Republicans, Marks totaled 2316 votes, Koons had 2176. For the Democrats, Thorne had 1153, and Sparkman had 1048 to fill the seats on the board.

One of the major parts of the Richards campaign dealt with his efforts to work with neighbors at Ox Ridge in an effort to come to compromise over what would happen with the open space recently purchased by the town. Ox Ridge is located in district 1, which Stevenson won by a margin of 459 to 93, her largest margin of victory in any of the six voting districts. District 1 is also Stevenson’s home district.

Stevenson said that Sparkman was, “very personable and positive,” and looked forward to welcoming her to the board.

“We ran a really positive campaign for the town of Darien,” Stevenson said during a celebration speech.

“There’s so much going on in politics at the state level and the federal level, but everything is local. And all of our issues are very non-partisan, and I think the numbers bear out that voters vote for candidates that always take the high road,” Stevenson said. “We welcome to the board Pam Sparkman, and we will be helpful to Pam in learning the ins and outs of the Board of Selectmen,” Stevenson said, adding, “we also will thank Selectman Rob Richards for his tenure, and welcome Selectman Marc Thorne back.”

She tasked those in the room with looking forward, saying, “We celebrate tonight, but tomorrow morning we wake up with a new mission. Our mission tomorrow is to take the majority in the House and Senate, and the Gubernatorial race in 2018, and turn this state back around.”

Richards’ reaction

While choosing to run a full slate of candidates left Richards vulnerable to losing his seat on the board, he said he felt that filling the ballot was an important step for the local growth of the Democratic party. As poll results came in on Tuesday night, Richards said his campaign was built to represent an idea of community engagement and encourage others to participate, rather than running in opposition to Stevenson.

“It never mattered whether to me whether I was a selectman or not. I decided to help people out, I still intend to help people out. I can be more effective in politics, but I will complete my mission of helping people.”

Local voter turnout increased overall in comparison to the 2015 local election and support for the Democratic Selectmen candidates increased as well, with Democrats taking a larger overall percentage of the vote. State Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein was the last Democrat to hold the office of First Selectman, from 2003 to 2009, and was the first Democrat to win the office in 14 years.

On Tuesday Richards stressed that he was not disappointed in the outcome of the race and that being a Selectman was not the core of his ambition. He said originally chose to join the Board of Selectman in 2015 in order to help Darien residents, and he plans to continue doing so. When Darien’s Democrats announced their slate for the 2017 election Sparkman credited Richards and Klein with motivating her towards more political engagement. Sparkman was elected to the Representative Town Meeting last year and will be the only new member to join the Board of Selectmen in their upcoming term.

The race for Board of Education featured current board members David Dineen and Michael Burke, along with Dennis Maroney, the former chairman of the RTM Education Committee. Sarah Zuro resigned her position on the board and was replaced as secretary by board member Katie Stein. Debra Ritchie was then named to the board, and she will fill that vacancy for one year. Board Chairman Michael Harman was, in an unusual move, not endorsed by the Republican caucus, and did not run to be reelected to the board. Dineen had more votes than Maroney, and so he and Burke were reelected to their seats on the board. Maroney will still join the board to fill the empty seat of Harman. A new chairman will be named at this Tuesday’s meeting. As the senior member, Vice Chairperson Betsy Hagerty-Ross will call the meeting, and then nominations and discussions for the new chairman will be made.

Full voting results:

First Selectman

Rob Richards (D) 944

Jayme J. Stevenson*  (R) 2,470

Chris Noe (Petitioning) 24

Selectmen

Marc Thorne * (D) 1,153

Pamela Sparkman (D) 1,048

Charles A. Koons, * (R) 2,176

Susan J. Marks * (R) 2,316

Town Clerk

Donna E. Rajczewski * (R) 2,727

Town Treasurer

Joan D. Hendrickson * (R) 2,681

Tax Collector

Kathleen M. Larkins * (R ) 2,679

Board of Finance

Francis Huck * (D) 1,391

Robert Cardone (R) 2,237

Jon E. Zagrodzky * (R) 2,400

Paul B. Hendrickson (R) 2,392

Board of Education

Michael Burke  * (D) 1,411

David P. Dineen * (R) 2,227

Dennis J. Maroney (R) 2,182

Debra M. Ritchie (R) 2,566

Board of Assessment Appeals

Glenn Ritch (D) 1,014

Christopher Peters * (R) 2,068

Planning & Zoning Commission

Jennifer Leahy (D) 1,326

Stephen P. Olvany * (R) 2,268

James H. Rand * (R) 2,172

John R. Sini* (R) 2,481

Elizabeth Riva (Write-in) 25