Darien Democrats announce election candidates, will not challenge first selectman seat

Board of Ed Chairman Tara Ochman, left, Dan Bumgardner, for Board of Finance, and Sarah Neumann and David Martin for Board of Selectmen are Darien Democrats' candidates for November 2019.
Board of Ed Chairman Tara Ochman, left, Dan Bumgardner, for Board of Finance, and Sarah Neumann and David Martin for Board of Selectmen are Darien Democrats' candidates for November 2019.

UPDATE Tuesday 11 a.m. — 
Though the slate does not include a first selectman challenger, Democratic Town Committee Chairman David Bayne did not entirely rule it out when commenting on the new slate.
“Pam and Marc opted not to run for the Board of Selectmen again. We are very grateful to them for their service to Darien. They have been wonderful community leaders and we look forward to them continuing to volunteer their considerable talents to Darien and to the Darien Democrats in the future,” he said.
“As for the First Selectman race, I have no comment on our plans for that position at this time. The Democratic Party nominating caucus will be held in mid-July,” Bayne said.
Selectman Marc Thorne, whose wife Barbara also served as a selectman a decade ago, told The Darien Times “two two-year terms is four years of continuing responsibility.”
“There are other interests Barbara and I would like to have time to pursue. There is no shortage of excellent Democrat candidates for the Board of Selectmen,” he said.
Selectman Pamela Sparkman told The Darien Times she had no comment.

Monday 9 a.m. — Darien Democrats have announced their slate for this November's election including an incumbent and some new faces.

Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman will seek re-election this year. Ochman was elected to the Board of Ed in November 2016 and elected chairman in November 2017. Ochman holds a degree in government and law and spent her professional career serving as a finance director for political campaigns. Before serving on the Board of Education, Ochman held several roles in the community including PTO Chair at Ox Ridge School, chairman of the Council of Darien School Parents and a trustee of the Darien Library

“Darien Public Schools are committed to educating children so they can actively participate in their own futures. During my tenure on the Board, we have been proud to push forward innovative curriculum and improved facilities inside of fiscally responsible budgets, always with a focus on creating secure and appropriate learning environments for Darien’s children to thrive," Ochman said.

Darien Democrats have put forward two new faces for the Board of Selectmen, replacing its current members, two-term selectman Marc Thorne and one-term Pamela Sparkman.

Sarah Neumann is currently a member of the Representative Town Meeting from District 4, has lived in Darien for the last 15 years and earned her bachelor's degree in sociology. Neumann’s volunteer activities include serving as co-chair of the Hindley and Darien High School PTOs, the president of the Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk, Inc. and co-chair of St Luke’s Newcomers' committee. “Darien is an outstanding town and like all towns in Connecticut we are facing a number of challenges. As a Selectman I will have the opportunity to shape the path of our town and do so in a thoughtful and collaborative manner,” she said.

David Martin has been a Darien resident for 20 years. He is a member of the Representative Town Meeting and has served on the Finance and Budget Committee for the past three years. As an F&B member he has participated in detailed reviews of both the town and school budgets building a strong knowledge of both. David retired from JP Morgan Asset Management, holds a master’s degree in international business, bachelor's degree in business and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. “As a career analyst I am detail oriented, fact driven, thorough and thoughtful. My governing philosophy is grounded in what is best for our town. The citizens of Darien are my priority," Martin said.

Dan Bumgardner will seek a place on the Board of Finance. He is a recent retiree from a more than 35 year career in the banking industry. Dan holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees with finance concentrations. Having lived in Darien since 1999, he has been an active member of the community, serving as a youth coach as well as a volunteer for the Darien Community Fund.

Republican side

Stevenson was last challenged by Darien Democrats in 2017 for first selectman. Sparkman was a new candidate that year when she ran along with Thorne and Rob Richards, who had served on the board one term when he opted to challenge incumbent Republican First Selectman Jayme Stevenson for her fourth term. Richards was not only defeated for first selectman, he received the least amount of votes of all six candidates for the board, losing his incumbent selectman seat as well.

The Darien Times has reached out to Darien Democrats to ask for comment on Thorne and Sparkman not running again, as well as whether they had interested candidates for first selectman.

Stevenson, who was first elected as town leader in 2011, announced she would seek a fifth term in March.  Democrats did not have a first selectman candidate challenge Stevenson in either the 2015 or 2013 election.

Darien Republicans have not made a formal announcement yet on November's election. However individual public statements have been made that mean some board moves. In addition to Stevenson announcing her intention to seek a fifth term, Board of Ed member Christa McNamara recently announced she intends to run alongside Stevenson and incumbent Kip Koons for the Board of Selectmen. McNamara fills the vacancy left by incumbent Susan Marks who does not intend to run again.

In addition, Planning & Zoning Chairman John Sini recently announced his intention to resign the leadership of that commission and the commission itself to seek the Republican Town Committee nomination to run for Board of Education.