Wow. All sorts of stuff has been happening in Wallingford. I was going to say all sorts of crazy stuff, but I didn’t want to get hyperbolic in that opening statement.
Hyperbole is a good way to describe what was going on, though, generally meaning an exaggerated way of going about things. As when you say: “Boy, you have a billion shoes in your closet,” or, “I always knew you’d make a good president” (oops, that’s sarcasm).
What set it off was the resignation of Gina Morgenstein, a Democratic town councilor who’d just been re-elected to her third term. As she wrote in a piece in these pages, the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic reached the extent to which she had to make sacrifices and there’s no choice when it comes to your family. That’s pretty straightforward.
All sorts of people can try to tell you what happened next, and lots of them know a lot more about it than I do. Council Chairman Vinny Cervoni wrote about it in Saturday’s opinion page. If you turn this page you’ll find a thoughtful examination by Stephen Knight, who at one time was a Wallingford town councilor.
What I can do is offer a brief rundown. After Morgenstein resigned, the Democratic Town Committee voted to recommend Alexa Tomassi, who was the next in line when it came to Democrats getting votes. Cited was precedent, in which the controlling party honored such wishes.
The majority Republicans, six of them, didn’t see it that way, and instead voted to install Jason Zandri, who’d had a falling out with the DTC and had decided to go it alone with a petitioned candidacy, until a serious health issue disabled him and his effort to gather signatures.
It all seemed weird at the time. One unanswered question is what level of rancor was there to encourage a situation in which the GOP would move so directly against Democrats and in which Zandri, a well-respected Democrat, could have so extreme a falling out with his own party?
The answer to that question remains elusive, though Cervoni gives a clue in his piece. The Democrats could have raised signatures for Zandri when he couldn’t do it himself.
So, you could ask: Why didn’t they? And I don’t know the answer to that one, either, though there’s that major falling out bit. It all seems petty and needlessly vindictive, and will until somebody can explain.
One thing that worries me is the way people are worried about what’s going on. And by that I mean democracy. They see how after years upon years of partisan division nothing gets done, because each party is just trying to foil the other — and for its own sake, just to win.
People now are expressing worry that what they’ve been seeing for far too long at the national level is creeping into the most local level, the chambers of a municipal council.
That is different, and I’m not sure you can chalk it up to sour grapes by out-maneuvered Democrats. People are feeling great unease. It’s not helped by the coronavirus pandemic, but ugly, polarizing partisanship is not a COVID consequence.
I have yet to see a good explanation of why the situation in Wallingford had to come out so disjointed. There’s reason to have respect for every member of the council, but they sure got the next two years off to a rocky start. And that’s no hyperbole.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at firstname.lastname@example.org.