Greenwich RTC Caucuses Result in Major Power Shift

Greenwich’s Republican Town Committee held their caucuses on Monday and Tuesday nights after what was a scramble for RTC leadership to secure meeting spaces for 12 districts given Greenwich Schools were not an option due to Covid.

Some meeting spaces, including the Teen Center, Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center, and Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, had two district caucuses back-to-back. Others were in spaces not typically used including the town clerk’s office, Round Hill Community Center and the St. Lawrence Club in Cos Cob.

When the dust settled, many Republicans were taken off guard at the historically high turnout and number of candidates. The big surprise was the number of incumbents who lost their seats.

In fact, 21 incumbents ran and lost.

The surprises started on Monday night when District 11 held their caucus. Over 115 Republican voters turned out, about 100 more than the last caucus.

Incumbents Nisha Arora and Tom Michaud lost their seats. The five winning candidates were Michael Spilo (incumbent), Mita Spilo, Tim Busler, Laura Darrin, John Redmond (incumbent) and Erin Spiess Chang.

While many incumbents did lose, about a dozen overall either declined to run, were deemed ineligible for not having attended the required 50% of meetings, or moved out of their districts.

“We want government control out of your wallet, out of your bedroom and off your face.
We want our schools to be the best and our taxes to be low.
That is the new reality of Greenwich Republicans.”

– Carl Higbie, who chaired Wednesday’s district 8 caucus, but did not run for RTC

After Monday night’s shakeup, there was an inkling of what was to come Tuesday night in the remaining 11 districts.

Tuesday’s Greenwich Patriots email blast encouraged registered Republicans to show up in person to vote in their districts.

“National thought-leaders tell us that you must get involved locally, get onto town boards and take back your local institutions if we truly wish to effect change,” the Patriots wrote, embedding a tweet from former former US Secretary of State under Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo.

“The Greenwich Republican Town Committee is a local institution that desperately needs new people with more backbone to stand up for freedom,” the Patriots email continued. “It needs fresh faces, and new ideas…If you value freedom, if you value unity over division, if you value facts over fear, then you should make every effort to attend your local caucus.”

Jackie Homan, despite being the face of the Patriots, said she could not take credit for the turnout. The Patriots have railed against mask mandates, especially for school children, objected to the push for vaccines, and argued against Critical Race Theory being be taught in public schools,

“No one person can take credit for this effort. So many people were inspired to get off the couch, and get involved to help unify our party. It was a really amazing turnout,” she said on Wednesday morning.

Homan, who did not win a seat on the RTC in District 5, said she and Sharon Kistler, who also lost, were both denied an opportunity to address the crowd of voters at Tuesday night’s caucus.

All the districts had slightly different rules for their caucuses, and only some gave new candidates time to introduce themselves.

Homan said if she had been given the opportunity to speak, she would have said the following:

“I have been inspired to run for RTC after watching what is happening in our public schools right now with respect to the curriculum, and because I am concerned about the expansion of government, and the potential extension of Lamont’s emergency powers. Our party is divided right now.  Republicans with certain points of view have been denounced by our party leadership in recent days with surprising personal attacks. We should not encourage throwing mud at our fellow, bonafide Republicans.  Instead we should embrace all Republicans in our party. Given we now hold the majority, it’s clear we cannot and should not be labeled as small, minority or fringe. Conservative, principled Republicans are now the mainstream.”

In addition to Ms Arora and Mr. Michaud from district 11, by the end of the night Wednesday, party stalwarts who lost in other districts included Steve Walko (district 10), Carl Carlson (district 1), Paul Cappiali (district 4), Rick Cappoza (district 4), RTC Treasurer John McShea (district 6), and Kim Salib (district 11).

White board with tallies from district 8 RTC caucus, Jan 11, 2022

Also, District 8 had quite a shake up after incumbent Mike Mason, a longtime BET and RTM member, lost his spot. In addition, district 8 chair Linda Moshier lost her seat, as did Irene Dietrich, Phil Dodson and Randy Caravella.

Carl Higbie, who chaired the district 8 caucus, said the results should not come as a surprise. In an email on Wednesday, he named names in a pointed comment.

“The overwhelming turn out of Republicans, most of whom were first time caucus goers, was a referendum on Dan Quigley’s poor leadership,” he said, referring to the current RTC chair.

“He compromised our party principals. Nominating people like Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony (for Board of Education), being openly anti-Trump and frankly ignoring a huge faction of the party base were grave miscalculations,” Higbie added. “This is the mark of a new party, we welcome the folks we voted out to work with us, but the new direction of this party is a conservative agenda. This new slate was overwhelmingly elected because we believe that YOU, the voter are better qualified to make decisions for yourself. We want government control out of your wallet, out of your bedroom and off your face. We want our schools to be the best and our taxes to be low. That is the new reality of Greenwich Republicans.”

Higbie’s reference to the RTC chair hints at a Nov 11, 2021 letter to the editor from Quigley (RTC Chair: Greenwich Republicans, Where Do We Go from Here?) just after the contentious municipal election.

That election featured a very tight race among three Republican nominees for two seats on the Board of Education that resulted in a tense recount.

The top Republican vote-getter was Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony, who drew the ire of some members of his party for having donated to the presidential campaign of Joe Biden.

After the recount, Cody Kittle defeated Megan Galletta by a very close margin.

On Wednesday Ms Galletta ran for RTC in district 12 and won.

Mr. Quigley, who held onto his spot on the RTC in district 1 after a tie that resulted in a runoff, responded Wednesday to a request for comment on the caucus results, offering congratulations to the winners.

“It took focus and commitment to organize their effort and they deserve credit for working hard and accomplishing their goal.”

Quigley thanked all outgoing RTC members for their service, counsel and hard work.

“In 2021, Ryan Fazio flipped a State Senate seat, which prevented a Democrat super majority in Hartford, re-elected our First Selectman Fred Camillo with a 70% popular vote, and swept our local elections, including the BET.”

Quigley said the RTC had much to be proud of. “We fought hard to defend the Republican values that represent those of our constituents, and I am hopeful this will continue.”

Fred DeCaro, the Republican Registrar who is chair of the RTC district 12, said on his way out of Town Hall on Wednesday at 4:00pm, “People attended caucuses.They voted. Some people won. Some people lost.”

“Hundreds of Republicans came out in freezing weather to support each other, their friends and neighbors in the party caucus. It’s wonderful to see such engagement.

– State Rep Kimberly Fiorello (R-149)

Nisha Arora responded to an email request for comment, said, “When I joined the RTC in 2020, I joined with a mission to encourage and expand the reach of our party to women, minorities and a younger demographic.  Not only did I achieve my objective, but as an officer, I also helped institutionalize and digitize many of our processes.”

Ms Arora said she was proud her team’s achievements and the success the party achieved at the ballot box.

“I congratulate the new slate of members and wish them luck,” she added.”Looking ahead, as a newly elected member of the BET, I am excited and honored to now have the opportunity to serve our entire town. I plan to put my financial and operational background to work and bring rigor and discipline to managing our town’s financial affairs.”

State Rep, Harry Arora (R-151), responded by saying, “There are lot of new names on the RTC and I welcome them. I want to thank all those who served in the past terms, and who did not run, or were not re-elected. I would like to recognize their tireless work which led to a strong comeback for our party in the last two elections. I am honored to have strong support from the nearly 5000 Republicans in my district and the 12,000 Republicans in town. I look forward to working with our new RTC – returning and new members, and am confident I will have their continued support.”

State Rep Kimberly Fiorello (R-149) responded by saying, “Hundreds of Republicans came out in freezing weather to support each other, their friends and neighbors in the party caucus. It’s wonderful to see such engagement. A big heartfelt thank you to everyone who ran to serve. New members of the town committee stand on the shoulders of all those who came before and served the party with distinction. I look forward to working with everyone to advance the good ideas of the Republican Party that honor the proper role of government, protect individual rights and lead to more opportunity for all people.”

Others who Greenwich Free Press emailed for comment declined to reply, including Mike Mason, Rich DiPreta (former RTC chair), State Senator Ryan Fazio (R-36), and First Selectman Fred Camillo.

Camillo tweeted Wednesday night congratulations to the newly elected RTC members.

While many candidates described the caucus rules as mysterious and complicated, all were provided a set of proposed rules, according to a December letter to district leaders from Fred DeCaro and Dan Quigley.

They also received a copy of the caucus Call, a voter registration list, and the Certification Sheet to submit to the town clerk.

Prior to the caucuses, unaffiliated voters had until 4:00pm to appear in person at the Registrar’s office at Town Hall on Jan 10, 2022 to register with the party.

Only enrolled members of the Republican Party listed on the district’s “active registry list,” including the last-minute supplemental list issued by the Republican Registrar, were eligible to vote.

To be considered “active,” a person would have to have voted in the November election or contacted the Republican Registrar prior to 4:00pm on Jan 10. By definition, inactive voters did not vote in the November election.

District leaders were mailed a copy of the Active Voter list and instructed to call the Registrar of Voters office before 4:00pm on the day of their Caucus for names of new voters who registered Republican since the distribution of the Active Voter list.

And, districts were able to contact Traci Carney, the deputy Republican Registrar of Voters, on Monday and Tuesday nights to verify registered Republicans during the caucuses.

“Districts will be endorsing based on their performance in the last election in delivering Republican votes,” explained Fred DeCaro, the Republican Registrar, and Dan Quigley, RTC chair, in their Dec 30, 2021 letter to district leaders.

Based on that, the number of members for each district was:

District 1: five members
District 2: five members
District 3: four members
District 4: five members
District 5: six members
District 6: five members
District 7: five members
District 8: six members
District 9: five members
District 10: five members
District 11: five members
District 12: six members

What’s next?

The new term for RTC members begins the Monday following the first Tuesday in March. That falls on Monday, March 7, 2022.

From there, districts will elect Executive Committee members and district leaders.

The Executive Committee will interview candidates and hold a meeting where they will recommend one of the candidates for each of the offices: chair, two vice chairs, treasurer and secretary.

The vote for new officers will take place at the first full meeting of RTC in March.

Currently the chair is Dan Quigley. Vice chairs are Marc Ducret and Jackie Budkins. Secretary is Fred DeCaro. All four succeeded in their elections for RTC. The RTC treasurer, John McShea, however, lost.

A candidate who lost or did not run, or was not endorsed for missing meetings, for example, has the option of initiating a primary. However, there must be at least two candidates in a district. For example if there were five seats and seven candidates, that could potentially trigger a primary.

The procedure is to get a form from the Registrar of Voters and collect signatures of 5% of the party members in their district.

In district 3, there are 411 Republicans, so 5% would represent about 20 signatures.

In district 9 where there are 1,027 registered Republicans, 5% would be about 50 signatures.

The deadline to submit the petitions to the town clerk is Jan 26, 2022 at 4:00pm.

Jan 10 and Jan 11 Republican caucus winners by RTC district:

District 1:

Christina Vanderlip, Cheryl Resnick, Frederick Lee, Russell “Trey” Reynolds, Dan Quigley

District 2:

Susan Schieffelin, Michael Basham, Joseph Kelly, Jill Kelly, George Hvitz

District 3

Marianne Anderson, Granit Balidemaj, Carmella Budkins, Jackie Budkins

District 4

Diane Roth, Andrea Blume, Kristin Niemynski, Matthew Popp, John Thompson

District 5

Nancy Ozizmir, Bill Drake, Brian Peldunas, Dan Ozizmir, Paul Olmstead, Marc Johnson

District 6

Debra Hess, John Oberg, Aaron Kennon, Linda Whitridge, Marc Ducret

District 7

Karen Fassuliotis, Lucia Jansen, Beth MacGillivray, Wynn McDaniel, Sage Withrow

District 8

Joseph Solari, Adele Caroll, Kiera Lynch, Caroline Oliver, Andrew Oliver, Gail Lauridsen

District 9

Carol Zarrilli, Mike Brescia, Patti DeFelice, Steve Warzoha, Dan Sinisi

District 10

Deneen Borelli, Allyson Cowin, Hilary Haroche, Ramya Hopley, Jane Sprung

District 11

Michael Spilo, Tim Busler, Laura Darrin, Mita Spilo, Jon Redmond, Erin Spiess Chang

District 12

Fred DeCaro, Rich DiPreta, Megan Galletta, David Alfano, Andrew Walsh, Peter Sherr