For the first time in Southington municipal elections, there was a strong candidate running on the Independent ticket for a Town Council seat. Jack Perry, the young, energetic business owner - who reportedly had spent more money waging his campaign than both political parties - retains the town’s reputation as seldom electing an Independent candidate.
As many predicted, Southington just isn’t ready for a petitioning candidate to gain victory. Tuesday’s election, however, surprised those who thought Perry had mustered a well-organized campaign including a good amount of campaign money.
Perry’s campaign signs appeared to be strategically placed and are 10 times larger than normal. Significantly, the signs are visible on numerous residential and commercial properties. No Independent candidate had amassed so much pre-election visibility.
Since 1966 when the town adopted a town manager-council form of government, only one person, the late Ray Baginski, bothered to get his name on the ballot. A normally quiet man, Baginski was critical of the council in the 1960s and actually worked hard to amass enough names of potential voters and was eventually elected to one of the nine seats. He served one term. Since then, there have been a handful of candidates who steered past the two standard parties to go it alone critiquing at council meetings, but never on the ballot.
Perry was unusual from a traditional non-affiliated candidate. He hosted meetings with volunteers, sponsored a bus trip for volunteers and friends to the casino, a summer cookout and had used social media more frequently than the two parties. He tirelessly attracted enough names to get on to Tuesday’s ballot, organized a committee and began studying local issues. Perry reluctantly offered more of his own suggestions rather than attacking present government policies or fellow candidates.
It’s no secret that candidates cannot win an election without Independent affiliated voters. Southington voters traditionally send the sitting party home after two or three elections victories. However, in recent years the Republicans have controlled the council and all connected boards and commissions. Prior to the resurgence of the GOP, Democrats won the favor of voters for three successive two-year terms. Tuesday revealed voters wanted a change in the town’s leadership with Democrats finally winning control after six years.
Perry smartly used his youth, his business connections and his money, to attempt to impress voters that he is educated, determined and had the support of voters who believed a change was necessary on the town’s most visible decision-making panel. Unlike towns with mayors, Southington relies on nine councilors represented both parties. An Independent candidate, unless coddled by either party, would cause some chaos in voting matters. A Perry victory could have produced a 4-4-1 council, forcing both parties to either elect Perry as chairperson or graciously agree to have one of their own be supported by the enemy party.
I purposely asked high-ranking Republican and Democratic party members their opinion of the strong Perry campaign.
A member of the current minority party was blunt. “We’ve never seen a campaign from an Independent so organized. This election will be historic if Perry wins.” He then explained how both sitting parties would have to submit to Perry holding a chairman’s seat. Tuesday evening the same person said Democrats were “relieved that Perry lost.”
Southington has changed drastically in voter registration. Although Democrats have usually more voters than the GOP, the Independent roll has always outnumbered both parties.
The Independent voter list is high enough to have conceded to both parties, but Perry could not absorb enough to win. Perry would not comment on a repeat Independent campaign in two years.