Local Primaries Bring Out The Best And Worst

On Tuesday there will be primary elections in 20 … excuse me, 21 towns here in … I beg your pardon, 22 towns.

The official number kept changing last week because towns get so excited about these primaries that they forget to tell the outside world about them. Ray Hackett of the Norwich Bulletin had to tell the secretary of the state last week about the town clerk primary in Bozrah because nobody else did. Maybe it's the town clerk's job.

Local elections and primaries are wonderful because they're usually about leaky school roofs and vacant storefronts and crappy roads, except when they are about federal investigations of virulent racism (but we'll come to that). And a handful of people can make such a difference. For example, there's a primary in South Windsor because the Republicans did not nominate Republican Mayor Tom Delnicki because he was too critical of the free-spending ways of his party mates. So Delnicki collected signatures for a primary that will cost $11,000 to $13,000, which I know is kind of an irony.

It took only 273 signatures to do this. 273! That's nothing. On Facebook, there are pages titled "If We Get 273 Likes, We Gone Give Darby a Mullet." In Scotland, Conn., last cycle, the first selectman won with 283 votes. Not "by" 283 votes. With.

The place to read about these elections is Patch.com, the financially afflicted hyperlocal news system whose comment threads have become the gas pumps of Mayberry, the diner in "Alice, Sam's bar in "Cheers." That is: They are gathering spots where Americans of all stripes can meet and hurl unkind epithets and unfounded accusations at one another.

I really like the nicknames. On the South Windsor site, I saw repeated references to Bazz, Yags, McCanned and Dr. Unaware, who are all apparently town officials, at least for now. I wish I lived in a town with such colorful and mockable electees instead of West Hartford, where our priests examine the entrails of a freshly killed ahi tuna and announce that Scott Slifka will be mayor for seven more years.

In comments about East Haven, I kept seeing references to "Josey Wales." I found out that this refers to the Democratic town chairman who, last year, started commenting on a local blog as "Josey Wales," a reference to his favorite movie, in which the pro-Confederate title character kills his enemies with a Gatling gun and a cavalry sword.

The police investigated his comments, which included, "The end is near and people will be going to the gallows, right always triumphs over evil. East Haven was getting better, I will stop these fools in their tracks. Keep your good ear to the ground, you will hear me coming. But they won't. BANG BANG!!!!!!!!!!"

Oh, East Haven! You are still the wackiest ship in the Army.

'Staven now operates under a federal consent decree stemming from the arrests of four police officers who used excessive force against undocumented Latinos. Famously, Mayor Joe Maturo was asked how he would reach out to the Latino community and answered, "I might have tacos when I go home."

Maturo, a Republican, does not face a primary, but the endorsed Democratic candidate Jack Stacey does. Gary DePalma, a recently retired 25-year veteran of the police force, will go up against Stacey on Tuesday.

It's a peculiar campaign because DePalma has — to an extraordinary degree — avoided sharing any of his views about anything with anyone. DePalma declined to debate Stacey because, he said, it "doesn't do any good" and "allows them to rip us apart." You know: Anything you say can be used against you.

In a meeting with the New Haven Register editorial board, DePalma was accompanied by another retired cop — his manager — who answered some of the questions posed to the candidate.

The one piece of intelligence the board was able to pry out of DePalma was his claim that the Department of Justice case against the East Haven police did not involve "a cultural issue" or "intentional bias toward anyone."

Ruh-roh. You 'Stavenites hoping for change could be looking at more taco diplomacy. Remember, these elections often tip on tiny numbers of votes. Keep your good ear to the ground. BANG BANG!!!!

Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.

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