SHORELINE — In the brisk autumn air of a sun-dappled Saturday morning on the Guilford Green, passing motorists lowered their windows to cheer and whoop, and cowbells clanged, as a group of 35 Guilford citizens displayed campaign signs in support of Joe Biden, Rosa DeLauro, Christine Cohen, and the rest of the Democratic ticket.
“This is a peaceful rally to show our support for the Democratic candidates and to encourage voters to get to the polls,” said Guilford’s Tara Hunt Melvin, a Democratic Town Committee member.
“Amen to that,” said Guilford DTC Chair Marti Carlson, who was wearing a necklace with letters spelling VOTE.
“Row A all the way,” Margaret Robinson chimed in amid the swirling leaves.
Further down Route 1, another band of supporters was congregating in a parking lot to form a caravan that would wind through Branford, North Branford and East Haven. About a dozen vehicles, marked by a conspicuous absence of big trucks (a familiar sight in recent Trump parades), made their way through Branford streets, cheered on by clusters of supporters.
“I’m doing this to honor all those countless women who fought for the right to vote and suffered ridicule, arrest, and even imprisonment,” said Branford’s Wanda Bubriski, activist for voting rights and women’s causes, as she secured a Christine Cohen sign on her car, “and as a reminder that women can make great things happen, as voters and especially when they are elected as our leaders.”
"This is a campaign in the days of COVID," said Christine Collins, chair of the DTC, 3rd District. "It's all about getting people out and safely supporting our candidates. We're doing it virtually and we're doing it socially distanced. Our campaign managers are our headquarters."
The spontaneous caravan in support of local Democratic candidates, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (3rd District), state Rep. Robin Comey (102nd District), and state Sen. Christine Cohen (12th District), as well as presidential contender Joe Biden drew the most participants from Guilford and Branford.
The caravan wasn’t intended to upstage the Trump-supporting boat and truck events of the last two weeks, but rather to reflect the spirit and quietly fervent nature of local Democrats, organizers said. Allison Dodge, a spokeswoman for DeLauro, thanked the participants and described the caravan as a “test run.” Supporters were looking forward to further opportunities to congregate in the weeks leading up to the election.
Although DeLauro was not able to attend the event, she expressed her support.
“Yesterday’s spontaneous event in support of the Democratic candidates in each town inspired me and brought me so much joy. Without disrupting businesses around the town green, my supporters brought visibility to our cause and attention to our fight,” she said.
She added, “The coronavirus pandemic has presented unique difficulties this campaign season, but I am beyond grateful for the creativity, energy, and dedication of my supporters. With so much at stake this election, the people of Connecticut are the power behind my campaign.”
DeLauro, who has been a member of Congress since 1990, is facing competition from businesswoman GOP candidate Margaret Streicker, who has been running a controversial ad campaign. DeLauro’s campaign attorney Brian Svoboda last week sent what he called “a line-by-line” refutation of the content in the ads to the station managers of the media, requesting that they include it in their “political file” so that “the public can see the truth behind Ms. Streicker’s deceitful and worthless claims.” In addition, Justin Paglino is running in the Green Party.
Comey was elected to the Connecticut legislature in 2018, representing Branford districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and focusing on healthcare, economic development, education, the environment, and public health. Her Republican challenger is Marc Riccio, who has been a Branford Representative Town Meeting member since 2009.
Cohen, of Madison, was elected to the state senate in 2019, filling the seat left when Ted Kennedy Jr. stepped down. She represents Madison, Branford, Guilford, North Branford, Durham and Killingworth. She is being challenged by Republican Joe LaPorta of Madison, who has been critical of her vote to pass the police accountability bill.
In the 98th District, which covers Guilford and part of Branford, Democrat Sean Scanlon is running unchallenged for his fourth term.
A small turnout in North Branford and East Haven was attributed to the event’s short notice.
Incumbent Republican Vincent Candelora, currently the House deputy leader, is running unopposed in the 86th District, which includes North Branford and Northford. He hopes to assume the position of Minority House leader with the retirement of Themis Klarides.
In state senate’s 34th District, Democrat April Capone and Republican Paul Cicarella Jr., both North Haven residents who grew up in East Haven, are seeking to fill the seat held by Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, who is retiring.
In East Haven’s 99th District, Democrat Dave Yaccarino Jr. is challenging incumbent Republican Joe Zullo, former town attorney. Zullo won a 2019 election for the seat vacated by state Rep. James Albis and seeks his first full term.
“It’s a beautiful day to celebrate our right to vote,” Bubriski called out, as the caravan set off into a wind-swept Saturday morning in Branford. “It’s a beautiful day to celebrate our democracy.”
Sally Bahner contributed to this story