Few Surprises in Meriden Republicans' Election Slate

The Republican town committee chose a varied slate of candidates both established and new for this fall's elections.

There were no surprise picks at Wednesday night's Republican Town Committee convention – save for the last, the nomination of one Bill Godburn for mayor.

The 86-year-old World War II veteran and former Meriden Fire Marshal stood up and told the crowd after beating Joe Torchia in an 18 to 4 vote that he knew he was nominated as a "placeholder."

"I'd love to lead the GOP to victory," Godburn said. "I just wish this was 50 years ago!"

The party chose for the Nov. 8 2011 elections at the committee's monthly meeting Wednesday, held at the Four Points by Sheraton on Research Parkway.

The committee elected Godburn to give them more time to find a candidate they will back for mayor. The party has to register someone in that spot by the state's July 26 deadline, or they lose a Republican berth for mayor on the ballot.

"We want to leave our options open at this point," said Republican Town Committee Chair Dan Brunet. If the party decides on a new candidate, Godburn will withdraw and the new candidate will replace him. It's common practice, Brunet, who said the party did this in the last election before it cross-endorsed the We the People party's Bob Williams for City Council.

Torchia, who said he had sent in a letter to be nominated, said he was disappointed that the Town Committee elected "a filler" over him. 

The rest of the slate was a mix of well-known and new names to the ballot. 

Incumbent City Clerk Irene Masse and Board of Education Member Rob Kosienski were both unanimously nominated for their current positions.

"I love my job, I love all of you people...and thank you for keeping me here – hopefully," Masse told the crowd upon accepting the nomination.

Kosienski, 41, who has been on the Board of Education for 20 years, was also grateful for the nomination he received from fellow board member Kevin Scarpati.

"Having worked alongside of Rob for the last 2 years as a Board Member, I cannot think of anyone better to nominate for this seat," Scarpati said. "It would be hard to find anyone else who is invovled in our schools as much as Rob is."

Al Pronovost, who most recently made an unsuccessful bid against House Speaker Rep. Chris Donovan (D-Meriden) for his seat in 2010, was nominated to be the GOP candidate for the City Council's Area 1 spot. 

Pronovost, 64, will be running against a new Democratic contender for the seat currently held by George McGoldrick (D-Meriden). Though city Democrats have not yet held their own nominating convention, McGoldrick has that he will not be running again.

"He has no conflict of interest, and will be guided by what is in the best interest of the residents, balanced by the value received by the taxpayer's money," Town Committee Treasurer Christopher de Angeli read in a nominating statement, saying that Pronovost believes in small, non-intrusive government. Pronovost, a Meriden native, retired from a career with the Southern New England Telephone Company in 2007 after 37 years.

The town commitee nominated Josh Broekstra as its Area 2 contender. Broekstra, 27, will face Deputy Mayor Matthew Dominello (D) – who has been on the council for 27 years – as long as Broekstra has been alive – for the seat.

Broekstra thanked his parents for driving in from out of town, telling the crowd, seemingly in jest, that they used to live in Meriden but couldn't afford the taxes any more.

Broekstra works as a lockbox clerk at Webster Bank in New Britain. He made a previous run for Area 2 in 2009 against Dante' Bartolomeo, when he was with the We The People Party, and a run for an At Large City Council seat in 2005 as a Green Party candidate.

For Area 3, the Committee nominated Arthur Peitler, 61, a former three-term mayor of New Milford. Peitler said he oversaw a downtown revitalization for that town, and would like to do the same for Meriden. 

The lawyer said he and his wife moved to Meriden 5 years ago to help his daughter's family with childcare.

Peitler will be up against incumbent Brian Daniels (D), also a lawyer, who has been on the council since 2007.

The Area 4 nomination was the only other decision, aside from the mayoral vote, to go to a roll call vote by the Committee.

Liz Whitney, a 33-year-old mother of two who has volunteered on a number of campaigns but never previously run, won the nomination 23 to 2 over Andrew Pieteck. 

Scarpati nominated Whitney, saying he's only known her for a year, "but, she's done so much for our candidates and our Town Council that I feel I've known her much longer."

Pieteck is well-known in Meriden for his often heated public comments on various issues at city meetings.

"He's been a watchdog for the city of Meriden all his life. I think he would do a good job," Torchia said in his nominating speech.

In an interview after the vote, Whitney said that her experience volunteering on state Sen. Len Suzio's campaign inspired her. She will be vyying with a new Democratic candidate for the seat by longtime city councilor Keith Gordon.

Scarpati next netted the At-Large City Councilor nomination. The 22-year-old is in the third year of his first four-year term on the Board of Education.

Committee member Joan Edgerly nominated Scarpati, who she said she's known him since he was 16 and working on his own father's (unsucessful) campaign for the Board of Education.

"If Kevin could come up with the cheese sandwich in order to save the city lunch progaram a great deal of money," Edgerly said, referencing the solution Scarpati, as the head of the Food Service Committee gave to battle mounting lunch debt in Meriden schools last fall. After the city incurred $60,000 in bad lunch debt, students who ran out of money on their lunch cards were given solely cheese sandwiches until it was paid off.

"There's no telling what he may come up with as a councilor," Edgerly said.

After a short recess, during which the leadership of the committe conferred, the party chose to cross-endorse We the People At Large City Councilman Walter Shamock, who was not present.

Meriden residents will be able to vote for two At Large city councilors this November. Incumbents John Thorp (D) and Shamock are both said to be running. 

City Democrats are slated to hold their own convention next week.

"I think it went very well," Brunet said of the convention. "We have a good core group of candidates and have built some flexibility in there."


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