'Organized effort' responsible for Artinian's RTM loss
Published 1:03 am, Thursday, November 26, 2009
"I was very lucky to have won that seat on District IV," MicIlree said. "It's an honor and a privilege to now serve on the RTM, and I'm grateful for the opportunity."
The appointment came after Artinian, who previously served on the RTM, was not re-elected this Election Day after losing his seat by 86 votes. Even though there were only eight seats up for grabs on Election Day, there were actually nine vacancies in the district. Philip Weyhe, who was half-way through his two-year term, resigned from the RTM this fall due to personal reasons, but did not submit the paperwork in time for his seat to be added to the lineup for the Nov. 3 election, resulting in the post-election caucus.
"There was probably 10 minutes worth of discussion following the interviews," Miller said.
Much of this discussion centered around the possibility of an "active campaign" against Artinian, who serves as the chairman of the Republican Town Committee, on Election Day and over the weekend leading up to the caucus.
"I believe there was an active campaign to kick [Artinian] off the RTM, and it started on Election Day, and it continued," said District IV Representative Carolyn Schoonmaker.
Schoonmaker said various people had reported receiving telephone calls from "prominent Darien Democrats who are active in town politics" urging them not to vote for Artinian in the caucus. She also said that others had reported being "spoken to in the parking lot on Election Day to specifically not vote for Harry Artinian."
"Because this is a non-partisan group, they were claiming that Harry was making this partisan, which is the joke of it, because it would seem to me, to have Democrats working actively, that makes it very political," she said. "For a non-political position, it seems kind of odd to have such a politically active activity."
William D. Peters III, another RTM member from District IV echoed Schoonmaker's sentiments.
"I was disappointed in the RTM. It's supposed to be a non-partisan organization, and it seems like it's anything but that now," he said. But while he said he was disappointed, he said it doesn't seem as though anything "wrong" actually occurred.
"It's a free country, and people can do whatever they want. As long as they stay X feet from the polling place," he said.
Registered Democrat Jim Cameron, a District IV representative who also serves on the RTM's Board of Ethics, said it does not seem as though any ethical lines were crossed, based on the discussion brought forth at Monday's caucus.
"Let's remember that this is politics, and it may be non-partisan -- nobody should be considering Artinian of McIlree based on their party -- but people absolutely have the right to involve themselves in the politics of who gets elected, either supporting or opposing a candidate," Cameron said.
"Just because the RTM is a non-partisan race, does not mean that there should not be politics involved," he said. "I think that Mr. Artinian was well known to people in the district. He has been on the RTM for six years. People have seen him in action on the RTM, watched him on Channel 79.
"I don't think there was any mystery about how people voted for or against Mr. Artinian. He is well known," Cameron said. "Unlike the other candidates, who we needed to talk to and listen to, we only listened to Mr. Artinian for four minutes [Monday night] and had no questions for him because we already knew him."
Artinian said he has heard the rumors about the pre-caucus phone calls and negative campaigning on Election Day.
"It's certainly possible, but if it is true, it's extremely disappointing, because it destroys any illusion of a non-partisan RTM," he said.
As to whether the alleged attacks were rooted in personal or political rivalries, he said, "your guess is as good as mine."
Artinian garnered 435 votes on Election Day, in a district that cast 709 of 1022 -- or 69.4 percent of -- ballots for Republican First Selectman David Campbell. Artinian's name appeared as the first choice on the ballot, because of its position in the alphabet.
Earlier in the election season, various RTM members speculated that the alphabetical listing of candidates' names could lead to candidates at the end of the alphabet losing out on votes as a result of voters clicking down the row. Five of the six candidates whose names topped their ballots were elected; Artinian was the only one who was not. Additionally, candidates whose name appeared first in Districts I, II and III received the most votes in their districts.
"Was there an organized effort to oppose Mr. Artinian?" Cameron asked. "Not that I know of... . But you cannot remove politics from the process of the election, whether it's at the polls or in the caucus."