Letter: First Selectman has created toxic atmosphere in town government

To the Editor:

The local Republicans are at it again. I thank Trumbull Republican Town Committee Publicity Director Paul Lavoie for bringing up the name Tom Kelly again, as I believe his letters increase my name recognition all over town. However, I think if Lavoie is a man of character, he has a personal responsibility to tell the truth. He didn’t do so in his last letter to the Trumbull Times.

If anyone really cares about my party affiliation, here is the story. I was a Republican in 2009, and became unaffiliated in November 2010. In April 2011, I registered as a Republican, because I wanted to be able to vote in the local primary, if there was one. In January 2012, I became a Democrat, and I did so for very strong reasons. I disagreed with Mr. Herbst on many issues, but more importantly, I honestly could no longer call myself a Republican. I could not support the GOP’s position on guns. They couldn’t even support a bill requiring universal background checks. Too many Republicans have become a proxy for the NRA. Then there is the denial of climate change, an intolerance of marriage equality, efforts to suppress the voting rights of minorities, a denial of evolution, the various crackpot statements made about rape, and the intolerant statements made about immigration reform. I saw the same intolerance, divisiveness, and extremism right here in Trumbull, and I left the Republican Party. I’m glad I did.

Now that we’ve established that Mr. Lavoie has trouble getting his facts straight, it seems he’s eager to make an issue out of my leaving the Republican Party at the local level. OK. If it was just me who decided to jump ship, Lavoie might have a point. But look at what’s happened within the local Republican Party in the short three years since Mr. Herbst was elected. More than half of members of the TRTC have left since Mr. Herbst took office. Why? Lisa Tesei-Valenti, former TRTC vice-chairman became a Democrat. Her brother is the Republican First Selectman of Greenwich, so she didn’t make that decision lightly. Former Board of Education Chairman Ted Lovely left the Republican Party. Former Board of Finance Chairman Andy Palo left the Republican Party and became a Democrat. Town Councilwoman Martha Mark left the party and became a Democrat. Former Republican Assistant Registrar of Voters Kathy Miranti left the party and became a Democrat.

I had plenty of company in this exodus. We left the party that had won the local election, so it’s obviously a matter of principle.

This year, half of the incumbent Republicans on the Town Council have chosen not to seek re-election. This is unprecedented in local politics for the majority party. It’s an indication of Herbst’s inability to work with others, and speaks to the toxic atmosphere he’s created in town government.  When so many community volunteers are walking away, especially those in the First Selectman’s own party, it's a sign something is very wrong. Trumbull deserves much better.

Tom Kelly, Democratic candidate for Board of Finance