WALLINGFORD — Jason Zandri and John Sullivan, current and former Democratic members of the Town Council respectively, must collect nearly 400 signatures each by next week to secure a spot on the November ballot.
They are seeking ballot access in the race for Town Council through primary petitioning, after neither were endorsed last month by the Wallingford Democratic Town Committee.
Zandri, who has been serving on the council since 2014, and Sullivan, who served from 2010 to 2018, have already picked up their petitions, Democratic Registrar of Voters Bob Avery confirmed Monday.
Zandri and Sullivan each must collect 399 valid signatures from registered Democrats in town by Aug. 11, which is 90 days before the election. The verified signatures must be filed with the Secretary of the State’s office by Aug. 18.
Under state law, the number of signatures is determined by calculating 5 percent of the number of registered Democrats on the date of the party’s nominating caucus — July 21.
On that date, there were 7,977 registered Democrats in town.
Sullivan and Zandri likely will have to gather more signatures than the minimum amount, as some signatures may not be valid.
“We’ll get as many as we can,” Sullivan said Monday. “It's always best to go over, obviously.”
Because time is short, Sullivan said, he plans to go door to door to collect signatures. He’s also allowed to send a representative.
“We're going to do our best to get our signatures,” he said.
Zandri didn’t return requests for comment.Party slate
Democrats currently hold three of the nine council seats in Wallingford.
All seats are up for re-election in November. The seats are at-large — no candidates directly challenge those from another party.
Under the Town Charter, a political party can run a slate of up to nine candidates for Town Council. A single party is limited to holding six council seats, so the parties usually endorse only six candidates.
Voters, however, can select up to nine candidates of any party for Town Council at the polls.
Town Clerk Deborah McKiernan said that although Zandri and Sullivan are using primary petitions, there would not be a primary election if they are successful, because the Democrats have three spots left on the line for Town Council candidates.
For the council race, the local Democrats endorsed incumbents Gina Morgenstein and Vincent Testa and newcomers Nicole Barillaro, Sam Carmody, Bruce Conroy and Alexa Tomassi.
Zandri resigned from the Democratic Town Committee at the beginning of June. He had objected to the DTC’s executive board decision to run six candidates for Town Council instead of nine.
Alida Cella, DTC chairperson, said via email Tuesday that “regrettably” Zandri also withdrew from the party’s selection process, telling party leaders he didn't want an endorsement “despite the likelihood that he would have been nominated.”
Sullivan left the DTC in 2015, also after a clash with committee leadership. Cella was not DTC chairperson when Sullivan left.
He petitioned to be included on the ballot in the November 2017 municipal election, and ran as an unaffiliated candidate not endorsed by any party. He lost his bid for re-election that year.
“I appreciate that John (Sullivan) saw the process through,” Cella said, “and he was given the same opportunity as everyone else who participated.”Differing views
If Zandri and Sullivan are successful in gaining ballot access on the Democratic line, there would be eight Democrats listed on that line.
The Wallingford Republican Town Committee endorsed six candidates for Town Council.
Cella said that although she respects Zandri and Sullivan’s right to petition on, “it is regrettable that they will not come together with our WDTC endorsed candidates and our hardworking volunteers to execute a sensible, targeted strategy for winning a Democratic majority, as others who did not get endorsed did.”
She said that because of Wallingford’s at-large voting system, Zandri and Sullivan’s action “directly threaten our ability to deliver on that goal.”
“We can only win six seats,” she said. “Eight candidates guarantees that people lose, sets up a competitive process amongst Democratic candidates, and wastes resources that should be focused on a team of six.”
“If they could see beyond their personal ambitions,” she added, “they would understand that without a majority and the mayor, they are powerless to effect real change, even if they themselves are successful. What good is that success if their hands are otherwise tied?”
Sullivan and Zandri were not available to respond to Cella’s comments