Most candidates for local office hope voters will focus on local issues while casting ballots next week, but national party affiliation can be a deal-breaker for some voters.
“I think for those people who have been really following, they can really see actual issues being addressed at the local level,” said Tom Lombardi, a Republican Town Council incumbent running for reelection in Southington. “That’s what the people demand out of their local councils.”Trump and elections
Two readers from Cheshire and Wallingford submitted questions for local candidates through the Record-Journal’s Voices initiative. A selection of those questions are used to report on area elections.
Ron Gagliardi, a Democrat from Cheshire, said he was concerned about “Trumpian” policies, particularly those regarding elections, being implemented by local Republicans. Gagliardi, who’s run for local office, said he’s split his ticket in the past but would have a hard time voting for Republicans who didn’t disavow the former president and his assertions that the 2020 election was stolen.
“By not saying anything, they’re implying that they’re adherents to that philosophy,” Gagliardi said.
Linda Bouchard, a Democrat from Wallingford, was concerned about political parties putting “our democracy in jeopardy” and trying to “fix elections.” She wanted to know if local candidates “believe everyone has a right to vote in free and fair elections.”
“If someone in the Republican party on a local level supports what the Republicans on a national level support, they will never get my vote,” Bouchard said.National vs. local
Joseph Carabetta III, a challenger for Meriden’s Area 2 City Council seat, said national politics have an impact on how people vote as evidenced by higher turnout during presidential election years. Local candidates’ stance on national issues wasn’t relevant to local governance though, said Carabetta, a member of the local We The People party cross-endorsed by Republicans.
“Ultimately, you really can’t tie a national issue to a local election in my opinion,” he said.
Meriden voters most want to know where local candidates stand on taxes, according to Area 2 incumbent Councilor Larue Graham, a Democrat running for re-election.
“Most people want to know, ‘What are you going to do for me?’ Most voters are taxpayers, they want to know how I’m going to alleviate their tax burden,” Graham said.
He hoped that the divisiveness of national politics wouldn’t color local elections.
“I don’t think there ever needs to be any time or any place for any nasty comments or any disparaging comments against our opponents or even the other party,” Graham said. “I don’t think that I need to bring up someone else’s shortcomings or another party’s shortcomings to elevate my own (accomplishments).”
Christina Volpe, a Democratic candidate for Southington’s Town Council, said she hopes local politicians put aside national politics when working for the good of their town or city. Councilors should focus on what’s within their purview.
“We need to keep it close to home and focus on the issues that affect our community,” Volpe said.
She hopes voters don’t make their decisions based on national issues and shouldn’t have a national litmus test for candidates.
“You should go in there thinking, ‘Is our library falling apart? What’s our budget going to look like?’” Volpe said.Individual merit
In the 2020 election, Democratic President Joe Biden took Meriden, Wallingford and Cheshire. Former Republican president Donald Trump won in Southington.
Despite what happens at the national level, Wallingford Republican and Town Council chairman Vincent Cervoni said local voters have been consistent in their support of Republican candidates.
“I think that Wallingford voters look at candidates on their individual merits. They don’t paint us with some broad brush that resembles national Republican politics,” said Cervoni, who is running for re-election.
He said candidates should be aware of trends in voting law changes but that there’s little opportunity for local politicians to weigh in on them.
“There are a lot of issues that state law covers and it doesn’t leave the town a lot of room to legislate around it,” Cervoni said.
Vincent Testa, a Democratic Town Councilor in Wallingford running for reelection, said he understood questions about national stances could be used to determine where a candidate stood on other issues as well. But he said focusing on national issues was unhelpful to governing at the local level.
“When you go across the board with all the elected officials in Wallingford, candidates of either party, you’ll probably find more agreement on the national issues when it comes to the need for fair elections and disappointment over what happened on Jan. 6 (at the Capitol),” Testa said. “I have found that a lot of people who have very strong feelings about that, even if they're on different sides of that, they tend to have very similar feelings about what’s important in Wallingford. That’s what I want to focus on.”
Those who want to focus on divisive national issues tended to be “troublemakers,” Testa said.