By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
Republicans adjust slate after candidates ineligible for ballot
PROSPECT — A clerical error has forced Republicans to readjust their campaign for the November election after five endorsed candidates were determined to be ineligible to appear on the ballot.
The Republican Town Committee at a July 22 caucus endorsed its slate of candidates for the municipal election in November. However, five candidates endorsed that night didn’t sign a certificate of endorsement or didn’t sign it by the July 28 deadline, making them ineligible to appear on the ballot as endorsed at the caucus.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Nazih Noujaim said the five candidates were Town Council Vice Chairman Stanley Pilat, Region 16 Board of Education Vice Chairman Robert Hiscox, Board of Assessment Appeals member Shawn Baumann, Zoning Board of Appeals member Galen Lowell, and Planning and Zoning Commission member Sean Duffany.
“It was an oversight on my part,” said Noujaim about the missing signatures.
The error wasn’t brought to the committee’s attention until almost a month after the caucus, Noujaim said. This means the candidates also missed an Aug. 4 deadline to petition to get on the ballot.
Noujaim said Pilat is going to run for council as a write-in candidate.
The names of write-in candidates do not appear on the ballot. Voters must write in a candidate’s name to vote for them. Write-in candidates must file with the Secretary of the State’s office.
Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office, said Pilat had not filed as a write-in candidate as of Sept. 14. The deadline to register is Oct. 19.
Pilat is in his eighth term on the council. He could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Noujaim also serves on the Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. He was endorsed to run for re-election this year.
Noujaim withdrew from the race Sept. 8 to make way for the committee to nominate Hiscox to fill the vacancy on the ticket. This leaves three candidates in the race for the town’s two seats on the school board up for election this year — Hiscox and Democratic challengers Gezime Ajro and Karima Jackson.
Noujaim and Hiscox both said they talked it over. Noujaim, who is a software engineer, said with his work schedule he doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to the board as Hiscox, who is a retired teacher.
Hiscox said the time commitment to the board is enormous. He added the chairmanship of the board will go to a Prospect member after the election. Hiscox has previously served as chairman.
“Hopefully, I’m re-elected and get to serve in that position,” Hiscox said.
Noujaim said the committee plans to nominate Baumann, Lowell and Duffany as alternates to their respective boards after the election.
OFFICIALS SAID THE ISSUE with the signatures was not caught until Aug. 19 when Town Clerk M. Carrie Anderson and Democratic Registrar of Voters Kate Blinstrubas conducted the ballot lottery to determine the order candidates would appear on the ballot.
Blinstrubas said her and Anderson were checking signatures to see how candidates’ names would appear on the ballot when they noticed the five Republicans did not sign the certificate of endorsement by July 28.
“Once we noticed, we had to take action,” said Blinstrubas, noting that political affiliation did not matter.
On Aug. 24, Democratic Town Committee Chairman John Schwarzkopf emailed Anderson, state election officials and the town’s registrars of voters, stating the lack of signatures constitutes a “failure to endorse” under state statutes.
Rosenberg said candidates endorsed at a caucus are required to sign the certificate of endorsement.
Noujaim said he was not made aware of the issue until after the Aug. 24 email. He said he was shocked when he heard.
“I was very disappointed to find out that I was not eligible to be on the ballot,” said Hiscox, who did not attend the caucus because he was feeling ill at the time.
Noujaim and Hiscox both said there have been times in the past when the town clerk’s office told officials that they submitted incomplete campaign paperwork.
Anderson, a Republican who is not running for re-election and did not attend the caucus, said her office received the certificate of endorsement, and timestamped it and posted it as usual. She said the signature issue wasn’t discovered until the ballot lottery.
Rosenberg said as far as he knows it’s not the responsibility of a town clerk to verify campaign paperwork. He said oftentimes town clerks may not notice issues.
Noujaim said the committee sought legal counsel. He argued that since every candidate endorsed signed a campaign finance form to run under the Republican Town Committee they should be eligible for the ballot.
Noujaim said the committee considered taking legal action in an effort to get the candidates on the ballot. But, he said, it was too costly and it’s unknown how a judge would rule in the case.
“It’s doable. But it’s going to take money and effort, and we thought concentrate that for our write-in candidate,” said Noujaim, referring to Pilat.
THE ERROR COULD HAVE a significant impact on town politics.
Mayor Robert Chatfield, a Republican, has been in office since 1977 and has long enjoyed a Republican majority on the Town Council. Chatfield is running for re-election.
There are nine seats on the council, and one party can hold up to the five of them. There will only be the names of nine candidate on the ballot for council, including all five Democratic candidates. If voters overlook Pilat as a write-in candidate, it will open the door for Democrats to take control of the council.
Chatfield referred questions on the signature oversight to Noujaim. He expressed confidence that Pilat will be re-elected, pointing to former Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura’s successful write-in campaign in 2005, giving Republicans the opportunity to maintain their majority.
Town Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas, a Republican running for re-election, said what happen with the signatures is unfortunate but it’s in the past and officials need to move on from it.