NAUGATUCK – Burgess Anthony Campbell is racing against the clock. He has until 4 p.m. Feb. 1 to collect 296 signatures. That’s 5 percent of registered Democrats in Naugatuck.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” he said.
After failing to gain an endorsement from the Democratic Party, Campbell decided to take his bid for reelection as burgess to the people.
“I’ll try to get a primary and see what happens,” he said.
Campbell, who has served four terms in office, said he doesn’t know why he wasn’t endorsed by the Democrat Town Committee to run for reelection.
“I was a little upset and surprised that I wasn’t nominated by the Democratic Party,” he said.
Usually the party only nominates six candidates, the maximum number of burgesses who can be elected from one party, but this time nine names were put up for endorsement. Campbell was one of the three left out in the cold.
Campbell is not a member of the town committee, but he said he doesn’t know if that influenced the decision.
Incumbent Burgess Henry Kuczenski, who was endorsed by the committee, speculated that the reason Campbell wasn’t endorsed was that some people might think it’s time for a change or maybe the other candidates just had more friends on the committee.
“It’s hard to understand people,” said Kuczenski. “That’s just the way it goes.”
Campbell said he didn’t want to be voted out by a committee.
“If I’m going to lose, I’d rather have the people in Naugatuck vote,” Campbell said.
He picked up the forms he needs to get on a primary ballot Jan 20, and has been calling up all the Democrats he knows since then.
Campbell is hopeful he’ll get enough signatures by the deadline.
“If I don’t, I don’t. But I’m going to try as hard as I can,” he said.
Campbell said as a burgess he has always been fair and honest and looked at all sides of an issue before making a decision. Although he is a retired firefighter, he never showed favoritism towards the unions, he said.
“I just try and do what I think is right,” he said.
Campbell said he has recruited several people to help collect the signatures.
Late last week, Campbell stood outside the home of Charley Marenghi to solicit his signature. Marenghi and his wife obliged.
“Tony’s a stand-up guy,” Marenghi said. “He has always looked out for the citizens of Naugatuck.”
Marenghi said Campbell deserves a chance to run.
If he does manage to return the forms by the deadline, the town will schedule a primary election for March 7.
The ticket would include the six candidates for burgess the Democratic Town Committee endorsed, plus Campbell. All the regular polling places would be open, which
means the town would have to order ballots, set up machines, and hire people to work the polls, according to Democratic Registrar Louise Sheedy.
“It’s going to cost us money, which we don’t have,” Kuczenski said.
Rocky Vitale, who was nominated to run for burgess, echoed Kuczenski’s sentiments.
“I think it’s a shame that it’s being done in a way that’s going to cost taxpayers money,” he said.
Vitale said Campbell could have run as a nominating petitioning candidate, eliminating the need for a primary.
Despite their misgivings over the potential cost of a primary, Kuczenski and Vitale said everyone has the right to primary.
Kuczenski said he might have done the same thing if he hadn’t been nominated again.
“I wish him luck,” he said.
Campbell said he wasn’t aware of that option when he picked up the petitions for the primary, but he decided to continue to petition for a Democratic primary rather than running on a line by himself.
“I’m committed to doing this. That’s the way I want to do it. It does bother me that they voted me out for whatever reason and I believe I belong there, so that’s the reason I’m doing it this way,” Campbell said.
Campbell said he didn’t want to cost taxpayers money.
“I felt bad about it, but that was the only recourse I thought (I had) at the time,” he said.
To become a nominating petitioning candidate, Campbell would have to collect 62 signatures from registered voters in Naugatuck, equaling at least one percent of voters who voted in the last election, according to calculations made by the Citizen’s News. He would have to turn those signatures in to the town clerk or secretary of state by 4 p.m. Feb. 1.
Campbell has been doing a lot of leg work, sliding around on the ice, to secure enough signatures, he said. And, the work is starting to pay off.
As of press time, Campbell said he had about half the signatures he needs.
“I’ve had a great response from people,” he said.
If a primary is held, registered Democrats could vote for up to six out of the seven Democrat burgess candidates to determine which six are on the ballot in May.
The Democratic endorsed candidates are incumbents Robert Burns, Michael Ciacciarella, Henry Kuczenski, Patrick Scully, and newcomers Rocky Vitale and Laurie Taf Jackson.