Close Races in Greenwich
By: Richard Kaufman
Another election has come and gone in Greenwich, and it featured several close races which were not concluded on election night, and instead stretched into the day on Wednesday.
The tightest race was between Republican Ryan Fazio and incumbent Democrat, Alex Kasser, for the 36th District State Senate seat. On election night, Fazio held a slim margin with outstanding absentee ballots from Stamford still needing to be counted. But as of press time on Wednesday, unofficial results from the Connecticut Secretary of State website showed Kasser with 27,014 votes to Fazio’s 26,583. In 2018, Kasser became the first Democrat to win the 36th State Senate seat since 1930.
Republicans scored a victory in the 150th District, as incumbent Harry Arora defeated Democratic challenger, Hector Arzeno, by an unofficial tally of 53% to 47%. The race was too close to call on Tuesday night, but Arzeno conceded on Wednesday morning.
Arora was elected earlier this year in a special election to finish out current Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo’s term in Hartford.
Arora thanked his supporters on Tuesday night, and pledged to continue working for his constituents in Hartford. Greenwich Republicans gathered at their headquarters for a virtual event, and Democrats met at the Old Greenwich Social Club.
“Our community has sent a strong message that the policies and the ideas that we have, the concept of serving our community well, and representing their interests, is what everyone in Greenwich wants,” Arora said. “Even in the minority party in Hartford, we’re going to bring change. The last 10 months, it’s been a great honor serving the community, and I can promise you that I’m going to leave no stone unturned to bring change and to put us on the path of good policy, and to make sure each one of us gets from the state what we deserve, which is good policy and good responsive government.”
In the 149th District, Republican Kimberly Fiorello held an unofficial lead of 53% to 47% over Democrat Kathleen Stowe as of press time on Wednesday, as absentee ballots were still being counted. The 149th District covers the backcountry of Greenwich and a section of North Stamford.
On Tuesday night, Fiorello thanked her supporters, and said the process of seeking office had been “humbling.”
“I am proud to be a Republican, I am proud to be an American. I truly thank those who have faith in the Republican principles,” she said. “We will still see [what happens with the results], but I am so grateful for all the people who came out to support this campaign. I am truly your voice.”
Democrat Stephen Meskers will head back to Hartford to represent the 150th District. He beat Republican Joe Kelly, the former Greenwich High School rugby coach and current Board of Education member, 55% (6,714 votes) to 45% (5,512 votes).
Kelly called Meskers on Tuesday night to concede the race, which had been very civil and competitive over the last couple months.
“The whole experience was great. It was our first campaign, and it was good fun,” Kelly said on Wednesday. “Our opponent was great. We decided early on to set an example to everyone out there that you can be in a campaign and be friendly with your opponent. We each tried to compete to have people vote for us, not against our opponent. Unfortunately, he got more votes than I did, and that’s the will of the people.”
Meskers said he was “overwhelmed and thrilled” by the support he received, and added that he was grateful for the way Kelly ran his campaign.
“I’m honored and touched by the community putting their faith and trust in me. I’m looking forward to serving,” Meskers said.
Meskers added that the Greenwich delegation to Hartford will have to come together to serve the people.
“We’re going to have to reach a consensus on policy. There were some stark differences offered in the debates,” he said. “We’ll have to work together to represent Greenwich, and work together to achieve the achievable. I think Greenwich is wise to have a bipartisan delegation, particularly if you want your voice heard; you need to be on both sides of the aisle.”
Elsewhere, Greenwich’s Registrars of Voters, Democrat Mary Hegarty and Republican Fred Decaro, will return to their positions.
Jim Himes, the Greenwich resident and Democratic U.S. Congressman representing the 4th District, won re-election handedly against Republican challenger Jonathan Riddle.
Record Voter Turnout in Greenwich
Turnout was extremely high in Greenwich in an election unlike any other before it.
According to the Registrar of Voters website, the unofficial turnout rate was 84.81%. The record in Greenwich was 82.93, set in 2016. That year, Greenwich won the Democracy Cup, which is given out to the municipality in Connecticut with the highest turnout rate.
Out of 41,560 eligible voters in town, 35,248 people voted. Of that number, according to the Registrar of Voters online turnout data, 15,440 were absentee ballots, and 19,808 voted in person.
Operations ran smoothly across Greenwich at the polling locations. Long lines formed early in the morning, but dissipated into the afternoon and evening.
“I think that the poll workers and the voters should all be very proud of themselves for how well everyone conducted themselves in this election. It’s one of the best elections I’ve ever administered in my 12 years,” Decaro said.
Millennial turnout was expected to increase in Greenwich, said Tony Turner, a former member of the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting and the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and now the founder and CEO of Rock The Vote Greenwich. The group is a local non-profit, non-partisan chapter of the national organization.
Rock The Vote Greenwich got off the ground two months ago, and helps 18-35 millennial voters in Greenwich to make more informed decisions at the ballot box, by providing tools on how to register to vote, how to update or change party status, and by giving voters access to local candidate information.
For local elections in Greenwich, millennial turnout is only 14%. In U.S. presidential election years, that number increases to only 49%.
“This is the most disruption America has had since World War II, and clearly people wanted to be heard in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. The campaigns were also very rigorous, both Republican and Democrat. It made voters in our area more awake and aware than we’ve seen in decades. I think if you combine the rigorousness of the local campaigns, with the disruption that we’ve seen at the national level, people just came out in droves to be heard on all of that,” Turner said.
Turner believes there is still a long way to go in supporting millennial voters in Greenwich.
“I think finally they have a trusted source of information that they can go to that’s non-partisan, not for profit, that just does one thing and that focuses on helping them make a more informed vote, which research says is one of the reasons turnout is so low,” Turner added. “They just don’t have all the right information that convinces them the issues will have a direct impact on both the here and the now, as well as the future. They’re our future, they’re the next generation of leadership. We have to engage with them now.”
For more information, go to rockthevotegreenwich.org.