[OPINION] Analyzing Tuesday’s Numbers, And Wondering What’s Next

Local Republicans took a shellacking Tuesday, up and down the ballot. The result — which included a massive defeat of their 2-person Board of Education slate by a write-in candidate — surprised even longtime Westport political watchers.

Rick Himes — a Westporter for over 20 years, and parent of 2 Staples High School students — took a deep dive into the numbers, and posted his analysis on social media yesterday. It’s worth a look here. Rick says:

I’m no political expert, but here’s what I see in the results. (Spoiler alert: It was a massive rebuke to the local Republican Town Committee.)

But I’m not here to gloat. Please read on.

Turnout appeared to be about 7,400 voters.

Democrats outpolled Republicans 2 to 1 across the field. In the Board of Education race, Republicans were outpolled 3 to 1. A BOE write-in candidate outpolled both Republican candidates by more than 2 to 1.

This “landslide” held even in races where there were more seats open than Democrats running — for example, the Planning & Zoning Commission, where Paul Lebowitz received 5,907 votes, while no Republican received even half of that total.

Someone can check my math, but I think that means Lebowitz received one vote from 80% of voters. The closest Republican (Michael Calise) pulled a vote from only 43% of voters.

For the Zoning Board of Appeals, the numbers were nearly identical, 80% voted for the only Democrat, but only 43% for each of the Republicans in a race that allowed voters to vote for all the candidates.

The ZBA race allowed voters to choose 3  candidates – and there were 3 candidates. That means in a race for a town board where, let’s face it, most of us don’t really know the candidates or the major debate topics, Westport voters withheld their votes for any Republican.

Other numbers are similar. Joseph Sledge, running unopposed for Board of Assessment Appeals, only received a vote from 50% of voters. That means half of the off-cycle voters would rather vote for nobody than vote for any Republican, even an incumbent in a down ticket race.

I can’t say for sure whether the Board of Ed race was the root cause, but the results for write-in candidate Jill Dillon sure make it look that way. She received more votes than either Republican candidate did in 2021.

And in 2021, Republicans Robert Harrington and Dorie Hordon each received nearly twice as many votes as either Camilo Riano or Jamie Fitzgerald did in this cycle. (Turnout was larger in 2021, as best I can figure, but those are still large numbers.)


The Republican Town Committee has the right to nominate candidates. But that comes with the responsibility to field candidates who are not so divisive, out of step with the town, or manifestly unqualified that they, for example, help elect unvetted write-in candidates in numbers that a major party nominee would drool for.

Or cause down-ticket effects like unopposed, non-divisive candidates receiving less than 50% of the vote.

As for sitting elected Republicans: 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker beat Jonathan Steinberg in 2021 by fewer than 100 votes. Anybody want to handicap that race if it were held Tuesday?

We live in a 2- party system. We need the push/pull of different viewpoints for the system to work. Compromise between those viewpoints is how all of our views are represented, and it is critical for a functioning government at any level — but particularly at the local level where pure partisanship, tribalism and the resultant gridlock has almost immediate effects on our daily lives. Nobody runs the table in a functioning 2-party system.

So what happens next? I suppose it depends on what the RTC was actually thinking when they nominated their BoE candidates.

If they are true believers in the culture war, it may be curtains for Westport Republicans up and down the ticket. If voters are willing to withhold votes for unopposed candidates on non-partisan boards, based purely on their party affiliation, we are likely to see more centrist write-in options — who will be more successful — up and down the ticket.

If the RTC doubles down, there will be a multiple-cycle shadow effect, and I think people will start sussing out the partisan leanings of even the non-partisan RTM candidates.

If the RTC was just floating Mr. Riano as some kind of favor or test balloon, they may pull back. But they’ve done a huge amount of damage that voters won’t soon forget. At least they may have a path out of the crater.

Either way, their next cocktail party should be interesting…

(If you appreciate our “06880” coverage of local issues — politics, education, zoning, you name it — please consider a tax-deductible contribute. Just click here. Thank you!)

34 responses to “[OPINION] Analyzing Tuesday’s Numbers, And Wondering What’s Next

  1. Rick. perhaps this may be an easier analysis. Thank you Trump and coward republicans like Tooker. Trump is the USA biggest looser. If it were not for Westporter James Comey with his email investigation announcement Orange make up porn star lewd crude would have never win.

  2. My wife and I had lunch in Alexandria, Virginia on Sunday with someone who’s retired, but worked in the Pentagon for 30 years, and we briefly talked about the upcoming election and he had a feeling there would be a strong Democrat result nationwide. It seems he was correct. Virginia, Kentucky, Westport, Ohio… 2024 should be interesting if Trump can avoid prison.

  3. Robert Harrington (Board of Education member, Republican)

    Firstly – thanks for your analysis and thoughts. You kept it civil and haven’t gloated. That is key post an election result like this.

    As a Republican who holds office and crossed party lines in this election to vote not for one – but three other non Republicans in the BOE race I think there are lessons to be learned here.

    I didn’t post on 06880 yesterday but did so multiple times on Back Porch. I wasn’t expecting an easy ride not do I think deserve one. I don’t believe in hiding so would rather constructively engage there after a result like we saw on Tues.

    One implied theme on WBP was shouldn’t you just stay quiet and implicitly put party before town – and be loyal to your party. I struggle with that. Trust me – I would love to have two Republicans join us on the board and overturn a Democrat control that has existed for over 25 years.

    I want more balance on the BOE – but not that way.

    One of your most impactful lines in Mr Hines piece today for me is, “So what happens next? I suppose it depends on what the RTC was actually thinking when they nominated their BoE candidates”

    On the positive side – I take some comfort that not one single sitting Republican in any elected role across town came out and endorsed the Republican BOE candidates. Furthermore, no previously seated Republican did so either. Finally, my personal observations at the two the polling stations I was at on Tues for many hours – there was very limited energy for the Republican BOE campaign outside of a lot signs. What do I mean by that? I observed hundred of people striding in with a clear mission, “Fill-in Dillon”. Many more that were not aware of the discussion were engaged and asking questions. It was GREAT for democracy. Additionally, I didn’t see a lot of energy from the people at the polls asking people to vote for Riano and Fitzgerald. That did surprise me.

    On the negative side – I genuinely don’t know the answer to your question, “So what happen next? Was this a test ballon foe the type of races they want to run?”. That may well be determined by the elephant in the room – the 2024 race. Can we just do a Marty McFly and travel straight to 2025?

    I hope national doesn’t determine our direction. I will be arguing for us to go ultra local.

    The great thing about Tues was it was all local. There may have been some national narratives in the campaign – but the elected positions being voted for were all local. It was all and only for positions in Westport.

    This is what I think the Westport Republican Party needs to take on board. Their best Republican candidates were not running for the race that many voters after often the most passionate about – the Board of Education.

    Candidate selection matters.

    The selectman’s race in Fairfield should also send a clear message to Westport where the current holder of that office is a Republican.

    It’s shows that event when you have a solid candidate – that may not be enough.

    The Strategy matters too. Making Israel a divisive issue was a huge mistake in the Westport BOE race. The race was over by then anyway, but that narrative just drove higher numbers and more passion into people voting for the alternative.

    I will remain in the Republican Party. I will stay active in the local party. I’m looking forward to a constructive debate in the coming weeks with party leaders, elected representatives and members. This is MUCH bigger than one person or one candidate.

    I passionately believe the local Republican Party has to hear the message from Tuesday, and grow stronger.

  4. Stephanie Frankel

    I want to thank Robert for standing up for our schools, superintendent, town and students over political party. That is what good character and not bringing politics into schools means. He stood for a true Democracy. Pledgimg party and loyalty to party over school ans kids is what Westport Back Porch wanted? Not shocked at all.

    I gloated about Jill’s winning against all odds. She deserves the accoladates. It also points out the power of grassroots mobilization for Democracy.

    I would not be too sure sitting Republicans did not support Camillo and Jamie. Double check on Dorie Hordon. She seemed to back everything Camillo has said. Also, check her husband Rob Hordon who admitted to crafting their emails about the children becoming Hamas supoorters bc of DEI. He admitted to crafting those emails in front of an entire synagogue. Are you sure he was not Camilo and Jamie’s campaign manager?

    • Robert Harington

      Stephanie, I appreciate the first half of your comments. This election was so important. The result was such a positive thing for our town even if near-term the Republican representation goes down. The Republican Party is fully responsible for that outcome. I do think it sadly spread over to other races too but obviously with much less dramatic effect.

      I will respectfully take issue over your comment on Dorie Hordon. I will never assume for anyone that because a husband, wife, or partner takes a particular action then that must also be assumed to be the same action taken by their spouse / partner etc. Dorie never once challenged me or the position I was taking, I gave her a heads up on the Dan Woog article, she never pushed back or tried to change my view or advocate for a different candidate. I think she has been a model BOE member. I don’t expect you to agree with all her views when I make that statement. What I mean by that is she asks tough but fair questions, she is prepared to pushback when necessary, and she explains her overall position very well. I truly believe the path of the Equity Study is now more reasonable because of her input.

  5. A fair number of signs still up on the roads.
    Both parties.
    Just sayin’.

  6. I was one of the 50% who withheld his vote for Sledge, “running” for BOAA, not necessarily because he’s a Republican but more so because there was only one candidate and the Ballot says: “VOTE FOR ONE” (as, in, “or else…!”)

    Since this thread is about Republicans, unlike the Democratic BOF and BOE lawn signs, any candidates who are too ashamed to print their party’s name on their lawn sign should rethink their affiliation.

  7. I personally drove our son to the polls to vote yesterday — It was a teachable moment for all our kids.
    Thank you Jill Dillon for stepping up.

  8. Robert, thank you for standing up for what you believe and having the strength to go against your party. A question was asked, but still not answered. Why did Westport Republicans nominate and put forth Riano and Fitzgerald? Was there an RTC vote? Or who made that decision? Any regrets? Would they do it again? Were there no other candidates or were they pushed aside for Riano and Fitzgerald? Such a massive misjudgment should be explained, at least so Westport Republicans can understand.

  9. Thank you Richard Himes for prompting us all to reflect on the meaning of Tuesday’s results. I see a rousing endorsement of the leadership of the BOE. I think being not just the highest vote-getters in the entire election but lapping the Republican opponents twice constitutes a mandate for their thoughtful oversight of our schools and its professionals.

    • Absolutely, Becky. Residents showed up specifically to support Lee Goldstein & Neil Phillips. This was a literal vote of confidence for their leadership and values.

  10. Michael Mossman

    Great analysis… but don’t celebrate too soon. From the presidential “debate” last night it’s clear Republican politicians lack the courage to confront the MAGA infestation in the party. It will be up to voters to do the job of educating the party leadership to ditch the culture war distractions and deal with issues in a professional, productive and collaborative manner.

    We must raise the bar for our political parties. It’s a shame that some decent GOP politicians have either been silent or have been silenced by the party “leadership” or the mob. We simply can’t vote for Republicans until the party ditches Trump and MAGA. We managed this here in Westport, this time. We must do the same statewide and nationally.

    Please encourage our friends everywhere to get out and vote… every time. Every election. Complacency and hubris is what got us 2016 and January 6. 2024 is coming up soon!

  11. Stephanie Frankel

    Do people know that Dorie’s husband crafted the emails for Camilo and Jamie about Israel ?
    I take big issue with that given she sits on the BOE!

  12. On a positive note, my take away from Tuesday is that the super majority of voters have confidence in the great and impressive work of our BOE, Superintendent and school staff. It is reassuring to me that our town knows how hard and constructively our BOE and staff work to support our students and to make our schools even better. Thank you to our current Westport BOE and welcome to Jill.

    • We should all feel indebted to Lee, Neil, and Jill. So much work, so little thanks, so much unpleasantness, but such an impressive result.

  13. Stephanie Frankel

    Last comment!

    Yes, this was all a vote of confidence for Lee and Neil!

    • This was less a vote of confidence in Lee and Neil and a repudiation of the Republicans.

      Many supporters of the Community Gardens opposed Lee and Neil for their assistance in the land grab, but simply couldn’t stomach voting for the GOP candidates. (And that situation is far from settled.)

  14. Lauren MacNeill

    Thank you for this very insightful piece. When the candidates were named from the RTC I was truly shocked. I’ve asked many times what were they thinking? Coming from a family that has both Republicans and Democrats who have argued/discussed/debated over the years , I knew that my Republican family members would never vote for these candidates. And they did not. The RTC did a major disservice to their party by nominating these guys. I hope they get the message and nominate thoughtful civil candidates in the future.

    I also wanted to comment on the energy at the polls. I have never once worked on a campaign or been at the polls. I felt it was really important to be there to help explain the write in. Overwhelmingly the energy was positive – most coming with a very clear mission to vote for all 3. Former PTA presidents, old and young. A few people who really thoughtfully asked why Jill, why do we need a write in (because there are 3 seats !) and listened. Only 2 people who engaged with me to spew falsehoods – one who said very angrily that Jill was a fence sitter – – you mean she will intelligently and compassionately listen to both sides of a issue and make a thoughtful decision? Sign me up!!

    I was very proud to be a Westport resident after my brief stint at the polls. The voters have truly spoken. It was a confirmation for Lee, Neil and Jill !! and anti national politics. Thank you Robert for taking an important stand!

    • Having never served in a BoE I admit to being naive on this. However, considering that the best interests of children and best methods for educating the entirety of student needs, is the only goal, it’s difficult for me to understand how party affiliation should matter…unless a political agenda is inserted. So for me that seems to explain their RTC choice in candidates. The RTC educational agenda seems to be the DeSantis/ Moms for Liberty platform in order to distinguish themselves, get noticed, and become relevant. For one, I’m glad that they chose these two candidates because at least they were vocal in their positions allowing voters to know who they are. That’s how we want it to be lest a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” gains inappropriate support.

      So I don’t think this was a “test balloon”… I’m not sure they have any other distinguishing educational ideas or they would have espoused them. At least I haven’t heard them.

  15. This is now a one party town.

  16. I think this local election showed that voters on both sides of the aisle reject the insanity of the culture wars that the GOP is embracing and peddling. It isn’t working on a national level and once it became clear that it might gain a foothold in Westport schools, people mobilized for a moderate, unaffiliated candidate to banish that risk. The only way Westport town government remains stable and viable is if we don’t embrace the extremes of either party, and remain moderate.

  17. Ngassam Ngnoumen

    It is time we give Westporters their due. They showed up to vote for the track record and values they deserve. All parties need to respect that this is a town that is astute and potential candidates need to reflect this.

  18. My thoughts:1.
    Robert Harrington is my hero, integrity.
    I voted only for Jill Dillon. I see the need for positive change on the BoE.
    The piece did not refer to the BoF. The membership on the BoF has changed, whether for good or bad, I do not know. However, all should pay attention to the issues that come before the BoF to understand the impact of that change. Normally new faces are reluctant to challenge standard practices.
    Like Jay Walshon, I see no role for the position of a political party in making judgments as to Town issues. Those issues do not turn on being a Republican, a Democrat or an independent. Yes, all should speak out against Donald Trump, but not in the context of a Town or School issue.

  19. Solid take.

    I think the election result is almost exclusively about the direction that the local GOP shifted with the nomination of two social conservatives for the BOE.

    (While one can certainly attribute the lack of election day success to Mr Riano’s own words being used against them, the Republican candidates didn’t even seem to try to campaign on issues outside of the Moms for Liberty talking points. A simple articulation of views on matters like redistricting would have helped send voters the message that they had a broader interest in how our local district is run.)

    It probably didn’t help the candidates that the Party that nominated them seemed to have nobody publicly advocating their candidacy. (Unless Sharon Wylie counts – and her rather unhinged rants fell into, “with friends like this…” territory, for the candidates.)

    I think it begs the question, “Who is running the local GOP?”

    Robert Harrington has been one person who has carried himself with integrity and I can see him being drummed from the local party, if the far right shift is what the local GOP “leadership” really wants, given his public criticism of the First Selectwoman and the BOE candidates.

    I suspect that (in New England) the NE-style “liberal Republican” (how I once saw myself) has been so shoved so far out of the party, by extremists that consider anything outside the realm of the evangelical-libertarians to be a RINO, that there are few moderate (and moderating) voices that remain. (Who let “them” define “RINO,” anyway?)

    I don’t think the national issues that impacted votes in Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky had the slightest impact on our exclusively local races. (Though those issues may be what are pushing people in New England toward the Democratic Party.)

    • That our local GOP bought into the Bannon strategy of infiltrating uncontested school board seats in order to deliver “death by a thousand cuts” designed to alienate Westporters from our board of education, librarians, teachers, students, parents, and each other is deplorable.

      The Westport community delivered the appropriate loss, but we still deserve a public apology from the Westport Republican Town Committee for treating the duty of elected officials so cynically.

      And the heroic response of Jill Dillon and her many supporters, while having acheived the result and response they deserved, is owed much more than that for preserving the fragile bond the callous, selfish, and thoughtless actions of many of our own neighbors attempted to destroy.

  20. Looking at the results of our elections this way is interesting and probably useful. It doesn’t, though, give enough weight to what I think is the most important factor: the excellence of the individuals who were elected. Their qualifications, experience, demonstrated integrity and willingness to handle even the most difficult issues is obvious. Thanks to the Westport electors – of any or no party affiliation – for making such great choices.

    • Spot on

      • Wendy
        While what you say has some basis, it seems to intentionally overlook the truth that many candidates who ran and were not selected are equally capable – and perhaps more so.

        Harris Falk is a perfect example of your glowing recognition of quality abd dedication, as well as others who would serve with intellect, dedication and distinction (John Suggs, Doug Enslin). .Perhaps new blood would be more advantageous rather than merely reshuffling most of the deck.

        Same old same old is not necessarily as healthy as it may be “comfortable”.

  21. Also not to be overlooked is that so many re-elected were without contest. When residents have no choice, their re-election doesn’t equate with excellence of qualifications, intellect and dedication – although it may certainly be true.

    Regardless, we all owe them much gratitude for volunteering to serve.

  22. Republicans lost (thank God) because they had Riano and Fitzgerald nominated for B of E and folks realized if the Committee could be behind two ignorant duds such as those, their other candidates must also suck. Plain and simple.

  23. Denise Michalowski

    This was my biggest disappointment. The Republicans in this town won 2021 with a lot of Democratic support. And then to nominate extreme partisan candidates as they did, slap in the face to those voters. What were they thinking?

  24. Quite right Jay Walshon,
    In the uncontested rtm districts unfortunately it was a case of you get what you get and don’t get upset.
    Hardly indicative of qualification, or for that matter leadership.
    Once residents see the true ramifications of the rtm 29, surely the biggest travesty ever to happen in 75 plus years of rtm votes, only then will we start to see votes change.
    Until we can educate voters that majority does not equal democracy we fight on.
    To not have Harris elected, along with John Suggs and Doug Enslin, is a huge blow, but it will just mean they will engage as non elected, but hopefully very vocal members of the public, attending meetings, where I am positive they will make their feelings heard.
    Still smh that anybody in district 9, and in Harris’s district, would have chosen to ever elect rtm 29 members over those excellent candidates, but I suppose there’s no accounting for taste. And we must accept it.
    Just means we need to work harder over the next 2 years to enlighten and educate.

What do you think? Please comment! Remember: All commenters must use full, real names!