Dems challenge Herbst to four debates

Neither First Selectman Timothy Herbst or Martha Jankovic-Mark, the Democrat running against him for the town’s top office, appear to be shying away from political sparring. But when the two will meet for a formal debate is still in the works. On Tuesday, Trumbull Democratic Town Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo challenged Herbst to participate in four debates, one for every Council district. This is the first local election season under the new four-district plan, rather than the previous seven districts.

The Trumbull Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, is hosting a first selectman debate and recently sent out possible dates, in mid- to late-October to both candidates.

In initial email correspondence between Herbst’s office and Lori King, executive director of the Trumbull Chamber, Herbst had said he wasn’t available to debate until after Oct. 24. According to emails Herbst sent the Times, King suggested a possible Oct. 31 date.

DiNardo criticized Herbst’s choice to wait until Oct. 31.

“October 31 is far too late in the game for a first debate,” DiNardo said in a release. “The residents of Trumbull deserve a chance to draw the measure of both candidates, side by side, responding to questions and critical issues unrehearsed, and responding to each other extemporaneously. And they deserve it in enough time to make an informed choice.”

In 2009, Herbst, as the Republican challenger, called for a series of seven debates, one in each of the Town Council districts, according to DiNardo.

“Now he just wants one debate — on Halloween to boot,” she said. “The kids will be out trick-or-treating, but apparently it’s Tim Herbst who’s afraid.”

DiNardo’s criticisms prompted response from Trumbull Republican Town Committee Chairman Jack Testani, who said DiNardo’s comments stretched the truth.

“Nancy DiNardo’s press release is not an accurate accounting of the truth,” Testani said.  “First Selectman Herbst was provided three dates by the Greater Bridgeport Regional Business Council and those dates did not work for his calendar. The October 31, 2013 date that Ms. DiNardo references was actually provided by Ms. King of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Business Council.”

Testani called DiNardo’s press release “a sign of desperation on behalf of a campaign that is floundering and behind in the polls” and said Jankovic-Mark’s voting record on the Town Council should cause every taxpayer to be afraid.

“She votes for more spending, higher budgets and higher taxes at the same time she disregards public safety and the right of the public to participate in financial matters of the town,” Testani said.

Testani also criticized the BRBC for playing politics on company time.

“In reading the emails sent by the BRBC to First Selectman Herbst’s office, it is clear that someone from the BRBC contacted Ms. DiNardo and stretched the truth,” Testani said. “This is not the first time Trumbull Republicans have seen this type of partisanship from the BRBC and it certainly won’t be the last.”

Testani noted that Lori King is a former Democrat on the Trumbull Town Council and Trumbull Board of Education and Timpanelli is an active member of the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee, himself a former first selectman.

Testani said Herbst has never shied away from a debate and he looks forward to discussing his accomplishments in the last four years as well as his plans for the future.

DiNardo proposed Herbst and Jankovic-Mark meet in each Council district, in an open, public forum before the end of October.

“By Tim’s own 2009 approach, we should have four debates,” DiNardo said. “That year, Tim asked for seven. This year, thanks to the Republicans, we will only have four Council districts. So while our residents have diminished representation and longer trips to the polling places, this plays to Tim’s advantage, because he won’t be whipped seven times, only four.”