Democratic candidate withdraws from Trumbull school board special election

TRUMBULL — The surprise withdrawal of Democrat Christine El Eris means Republican Alison Squiccimarro will be the newest member of Trumbull’s Board of Education.

El Eris informed town officials Dec. 22 that she wished to withdraw from the planned Jan. 27 special election to fill the seat formerly occupied by Kathleen Fearon. Fearon, an unaffiliated member who caucused with the Democrats, resigned from the board in September. The Democratic Town Committee named El Eris its candidate to replace Fearon in October.

“I was really very concerned about the rising COVID cases, and I don’t really feel comfortable asking everyone to go in person to vote,” El Eris said. “I was very impressed with the number of absentee ballots that were cast in the general election, but that would not be in place for an unusually scheduled special election.”

In addition, El Eris said the Democrats had backed a town charter revision to create an eight-member school board with a maximum of four members from any political party. Currently Trumbull Democrats hold a 5-2 majority on the school board, but the 2021 election will be run under the new rules approved by voters in the November election.

“Having backed a charter revision that no party should have a majority on the school board, it seemed disingenuous to in a special election to try to keep a 5-2 majority,” El Eris said.

El Eris had initially accepted the nomination to run for school board out of desire to bring a new perspective to the board.

“I share the same vested interest all town residents have in maintaining and strengthening the quality of our public schools,” she said. “My son was recently diagnosed as having special learning needs, so I have that added perspective of a parent of a child whose learning capabilities require extra attention and accommodations.”

Democratic Chairman Tom Kelly in a separate statement said withdrawing from the race was a logical move.

“We just ran on charter revision to end school board partisanship,” he said. “To have the poll workers and voters come out during a pandemic, and to have the town incur the cost just sort of runs counter to that platitude.”

With El Eris out of the race, Squiccimarro could simply be appointed to complete Fearon’s term, he said.

“The protocol is that in a special election with only two candidates, and one candidate drops out, the other gets appointed and we cancel the election,” he said.

Squiccimarro is a graduate of the State University of New York and the Pace University law school. As a candidate for town council in 2019 she said transparency, cooperative effort and civility were key qualities she embraced.

“In my experience, transparency and civility are the key to working together,” she said.

As far as the school system, she described it as a delicate balance between support for education and maintaining a stable mill rate.

“I recognize that it is a difficult balance, (but) if we fail to strike the right balance, we risk alienating and losing residents who make our community what it is,” she said.