Didn't vote? Herbst says get out

First Selectman Timothy Herbst was not happy with Republicans who didn’t cast a ballot in July’s special election, and he wasn’t shy about letting them know.

In the face-off for a Board of Finance seat July 22, Democrat Lainie McHugh came out on top, with Republican Bill Haberlin falling behind by 95 votes.

In an email Herbst sent to members of his party July 31, obtained by The Times, he made it clear that while Democrats ran a great campaign, doing a better job, he was not happy with elected and appointed officials, and their spouses, who failed to cast a vote. In some cases he urged those members to resign from their positions.

“This morning, the Town Treasurer and I happened to look at the RTC roster and the boards and commission list to determine if there were any Republicans, either on the RTC or appointees that didn’t bother to vote,” Herbst wrote. “The results of our analysis is sickening.”

According to Herbst’s email those who didn’t cast a vote July 22 include: Republican Town Committee members, two Town Council members, various appointed members of town boards and commissions, as well as spouses of active Republicans.

“If you are on the RTC and you couldn’t even vote in person or by absentee for a Republican-endorsed candidate, resign immediately,” he wrote. “If you hold a leadership position within the RTC and cannot perform an assigned task, then I believe perhaps for the good of the order you should step aside so we can find someone who can.”

Herbst also speaks to those on boards and commissions, saying that thousands of dollars were spent in November to get them elected.

“If you can not reciprocate and lend support to a fellow Republican, then ask yourself how you would feel if you didn’t have the support to win an election,” he said. “If anyone has a problem with this, then don’t run for office again.”

Herbst said he will also replace appointed members, who didn’t vote, when their terms expire.

“It is a privilege to serve the citizens of this town on boards and commissions and if you can’t come out and vote in a local election and set an example of doing your civic duty, then in my opinion, you shouldn’t sit on a board or commission making critical decisions for our town,” he wrote.

This week, Herbst defended his email to The Times, saying last November’s sweeping victory for his party has led some to lose energy and become too comfortable. He said he has tried to tell his party that popularity is not transferable.

“When we won the election with 70% of the vote and for some members it was the only victory they’ve known so far,” Herbst said. “A certain level of complacency sets in.”

Herbst said he received many notes of support for his letter.

“I am direct, what you see is what you get,” he said. “A lot of people appreciate that approach.”

As the first selectman continues campaigning for state treasurer, he said he doesn’t care how members of his party vote, he just wants them to do it.

He thinks the loss July 22 was a good thing, and will help reinvigorate the party.

“Even though I’m running for state treasurer, I’m first selectman here first,” he said. “I’m de facto leader of our party and I have an obligation to talk to my people, my troops, about what’s going on.”