A group of Brookfield Republicans has filed a petition to run six candidates in November on the newly formed A Brookfield Party (ABP) line. The group, which includes Republican Town Committee (RTC) Chairman Marty Flynn, outgoing Board of Finance (BOF) Chair and former GOP First Selectman candidate Bill Tinsley and a number of current GOP candidates for November, was able to gather 75 signatures from registered Brookfield voters by 4 p.m. Wednesday, meeting the threshold of 46 (or 1 percent of voters in 2009) to be included on the November 8 ballot.
If 1 percent of voters in November cast their ballots for ABP candidates, the party will automatically be on the ballot for those offices in the next cycle. Once officially on the ballot, the line can be used to work around majority limitation laws, which restrict any one party from holding all the seats on town boards and commissions.
With only the two major parties in town, this has often led to low vote getters entering office to fulfill the minority representation requirement, most often as Democrats. An official third party in town could endorse conservative candidates who are registered with their party and therefore would act as the minority if elected.
“We’re looking to do away with the affirmative action seats,” Flynn said. “There’s no more free lunch politically for the Democrats,” particularly on the BOF.
Flynn cited the BOF race in the 2009 election, where “all Republicans beat Democrats by a wide margin,” but the opposition party was guaranteed seats, keeping the board at four Republicans, two Democrats.
“We’re trying to respect the will of the voters,” he said, with a minority party that leans conservative.
According to RTC Secretary and Zoning Commission candidate Matt Grimes, the local party got the idea while at a conference with House Republican Leader Larry Caferro (R-142) and State Sen. John McKinney (R-28), where the two state GOP leaders “talked about their frustration dealing with the Working Families Party,” a third party that largely endorses liberal and Democratic candidates.
In more Democratic Connecticut cities like Bridgeport, the Working Families Party and Democrats have worked together to squeeze out Republican candidates, “and they encouraged us to do the same,” Grimes said.
This year, ABP is running six candidates, including running Robert Iacobello for BOF, who is also running for the Zoning Commission on the Republican line. Were Iacobello to win both races, he would have to choose which office to serve.
If Iacobello receives just 1 percent of votes cast on the ABP line, a 2013 candidate can run on that line as a party member and fulfill the minority requirement.
"We have no dreams of winning," ABP organizer and Board of Education (BOE) candidate Stanley Parker said. "The people that are running understand this. It's very clear — this is about the next election."
Using this tactic, Brookfield’s political makeup could end up resembling something more like Bethel, Grimes suggested, where Democrats hold the First Selectman’s office and a Selectman seat, but few others down ticket.
Pro Bethel Party Chairman and founder Robert Crnic agreed that starting a third party in Bethel in 1997 “changed the political landscape” and has been influencing local elections since, but said he was “not that keen on” forming one for the purpose of “blocking parties out.”
“That should not be the reason a third party line exits,” he said.
“We clearly have benefited from that loophole,” he continued, “But it should be one man, one party. The idea of being on multiple lines, visually and politically, it’s not fair.”
Crnic is in favor of third parties, so long as they act autonomously to shake up the status quo and not as an arm of the Republicans or Democrats.
“The role of a minor party should be to be a minor party,” he said, though with enough support over time they could supplant one of the major parties.
The goal of ABP is to work “in conjunction with the [Republican] Town Committee, not against them,” Parker said. “If we can do this we’ll be able to get the big spenders [Democrats] out.”
According to Tinsley, ABP is being created to foster a "real electoral process for minority seats," and not to act as "an arm of the Republican Party."
"This has to be independent," he said. "We're forming a party that is based on fiscal conservatism... This is not about pushing out or targeting any one party."
The goal, according to Tinsley, is to make sure "minority seats don't end up defaulting to the liberal candidates," but he added that "there's a belief that we have fiscally liberal Republicans on boards."
"We're going to be reaching out to Conservative Democrats," he said. "We don't want to push them aside, we want to bring them in."
The existing minority party, however, views this as a usurpation of the state law and its intent.
Minority representation has established a “long trend of ensuring that all voices are heard,” Brookfield Democratic Town Committee (DTC) Vice Chair Ron Jaffe said, calling the tactic “unfortunate.”
“This is bringing local government into a [political] fray that is outside what is good for the community,” DTC Chairman Joni Park agreed.
Flynn and the Brookfield RTC disagree.
“By forming this party, we’re making sure that the candidates the people want” are the ones that end up serving, he asserted.
ABP Candidates for 2011
A Brookfield Party is running six candidates in this November’s election:
- Robert Iacobello for Board of Finance
- Pam Kurtz for Board of Education
- Robert Huttermann for Board of Assessment Appeals
- Linda Taylor for Planning Commission
- Richard Horree for Zoning Commission
- Rose DeMarco for Zoning Board of Appeals