CLINTON – For the first time, the Green Party of Clinton is running a full slate of candidates in the Tuesday, Nov. 5 election.
Two years ago, James Connelly, the only Green Party member on the ballot, ran for a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He did not win, but the party was encouraged by his showing, which encouraged others to run this year, party organizers said.
“This is the first year we are running a full slate,” said Madeleine Leveille, Green Party treasurer. “For every board, every commission we are running someone and that is unusual for a third party.”
There are a few firsts this year. On election day there is no first selectman candidate on the ballot.
In addition to the introduction of the Green Party, voters will choose individuals who will work to transition the town from a selectman form of government to a town council/town manager form. The town manager will take over most of the responsibilities of the first selectman.
Leveille talked about the growth of the Green Party in town.
“It grew out of an increasing group of people who were concerned about clean government and clean politics,” said Leveille.
She added they are “concerned about preserving the fiscal resources of the town, growing them wisely” and she alleged, “ending the long-time practice of cronyism, nepotism and we believe some corruption.”
The Green Party came about after a group of New Jersey developers proposed to use the former Unilever building into a “huge, industrial, waste, recycling center,” according to Leveille.
While the plan sounded good, it posed problems for the town because of its location, right on top of wetlands, she said. Led by Green Party Candidate James Connelly, residents questioned the plan.
“Yes, it’s nice to have revenue in town, but if, in the long run, it’s going to destroy the wetlands…the wetlands go right into the shore,” she said. “We just rebuilt our shell fishing industry and Clinton relies on summer tourism. It would destroy those and create an increasing waste clean-up site.
“It presented only short-term gain and very long-term negative repercussions,” she added.
The new Green Party is made up of some former members of both the Republican and Democratic parties in town.
First Selectman Christine Goupil (D) applauded the work of Eric Bergman, the co-chairman of the Green Party.
“He’s well respected in the community and he was the head of the Morgan (High School) political club,” she said. “He’s been an activist in getting people more engaged in their government.
“I certainly subscribe to the same philosophy,” she added. “Over time, since I’ve been the first selectman, I have been trying to get people more engaged in our government, regardless of political party.
“Two-thirds of our voters are unaffiliated and it would be wonderful to get them more involved,” she said.
Goupil stressed that as a Democrat, she strongly supports her party’s ticket, yet, party affiliation aside, voters should elect the most qualified officials, especially for the future seven-member town council.
“This is not a popularity contest,” she said. “This is a very serious board that has fiscal responsibility, legislative responsibility for the town and you need people who understand how governance works and who can deliberate in a nonpartisan manner, which is very important as well, to move the town forward.”
Republican Party Chairman James Staunton talked about the individuals who were once part of his party and switched to the Green Party.
“Essentially they no longer belong to the Republican side, so they created their own group,” he said.
Staunton added that there is a high level of respect between all parties within town government.
“We get along certainly with the Democrats and I’m still very friendly with many of the Green Party candidates, as well,” he said. “I know that all our candidates and elected officials are cooperative with both Democrats and Green Party candidates.”
Yet, he said he doesn’t understand what the Green Party stands for.
“When somebody says Green or Green Party or Green Deal, it conjures imagery of trying to protect the environment and things like that,” he said.
“I don’t know of any platforms or campaign objectives where they articulate what that is,” he added. “I think that they’re a series of people from the town that are just not part of the two main parties and then they call themselves the Green Party. But, in my opinion there’s no real constituents standing behind them that are expecting positive outcomes for what they’re looking for.”
Leveille, however, believes the Green Party can make a difference in the Town of Clinton.
“We are not beholden to the powers that be and because we will be a minority, we will often be a swing vote on the different boards,” she said. “We will end the practice of favoritism and bring a new perspective to the town, rather than the stale old Democrats and tired old Republicans.”
Facebook Green Party of Clinton, CT: 2019 Town Election