Danbury candidate’s death sparks party dispute
Updated 8:19 pm, Monday, November 6, 2017
DANBURY — Despite the death of longtime City Councilman Gregg Seabury over the weekend, city Republicans have decided to leave his name on the ballot for Tuesday’s election.
A state law saying a candidate who dies within 24 days of an election, but at least 24 hours before it must be replaced by the candidate’s party or removed from the ballot. Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, said this could be done either by blacking out the candidate’s name or affixing a sticker over it bearing the name of a replacement.
But Danbury GOP leaders said there simply wasn’t time since Seabury’s death to do either.
“There really is no way that we can black out his name on more than 20,000 ballots before tomorrow’s election,” GOP Mayor Mark Boughton said Monday, “It’s impossible.”
The mayor noted that another state law bans the defacing of any official election ballot.
Seabury was one of seven GOP candidates for at-large seats on the council. If he were to win Tuesday, Boughton said, the party would appoint someone to replace him, as would be done in the case of any other vacancy.
Democratic Town Committee chairman Gene Eriquez said the Republican plan violates the law.
“They can’t just replace the position like a vacancy if Seabury were to win,” Eriquez said. “State law doesn’t allow for that.
“It’s a very tragic situation that has brought us here,” Eriquez added, “but we have a responsibility to make sure the elections are fair for everyone.”
Currently all at-large seats on the council are held by Republicans. If Seabury’s name were to be blacked out, it would leave an opening for a Democrat to win an at-large seat.
But Mike Safranek, vice chairman of the city GOP, said the fact that Seabury’s death occurred over the weekend is critical.
“A reasonable person can conclude that the legislative intent was a window of 24 business hours,” he said, citing that the Town Clerk’s Office opened Monday at 7:30 a.m. “Our position is that we are within the 24 hours.
”The Legislature had the opportunity this year to clarify the situation and they didn’t take any action,” Safranek continued. “We believe we are in the right.”
A legislative fix proposed this year would have allowed a party to keep a deceased candidate’s name on the ballot if he or she died within 42 days of the election. In the event of victory, the vacancy would be filled according to the town charter.
The change was intended to update state statues to conform with new voting technology and to allow for updating absentee ballots if necessary. The proposal made it through committee but was never voted on by the Legislature.
As a result, Boughton said, “It’s something that may end up going to court.”