Tag Archives: Westport Republicans

[OPINION] Robert Harrington: Fellow GOP Member Running For Ed Board “Crosses The Line”

Robert Harrington was elected to Westport’s Board of Education 2 years ago, on the Republican ticket. Halfway through his term, he writes:

Two years ago I had a major issue with my local party’s silence stance over the anonymous “Westport Parents” WP06880.com website. In August 2021 the anonymous website was created. Signs started appearing around town stating “Wale up Westport! CRT is here!” in reference to Critical Race Theory.

Despite an uncomfortable election (when I was running), I decided to stay inside the local Republican Party and have been an active member at meetings since.

I am proud of the way my 2 Republican BOE colleagues and I have worked together and put that election behind us. The Republican minority on the BOE has tackled tough questions like redistricting. We’ve asked tough questions, and have not always sided with central office and our superintendent just because they are the administration of Westport Public School or its chief executive officer.

We haven’t always voted as a party block, and we’ve certainly participated in multiple unanimous votes on issues like our budget and school facilities.

That’s not the end of this article. I’m heading for another disagreement with my local Republican Party into the upcoming election.

Robert Harrington

I’m sure some in my party will be thinking of the words of President Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” But this is too important for me to remain silent on.

I am highly disappointed by my party’s choice for at least one of the candidates for the Board of Education.

In late August, the Republican Town Committee nominated Camilo Riano and Jamie Fitzgerald for the Board of Education. I really cannot comment on Camilo’s running mate, as I have never met her or seen her at any BOE or Republican Party meetings.

I am not here to attack Camilo personally. He is a resident, a father of 4 kids who attend our public schools in Westport. Furthermore, he has participated in almost every BOE meeting over the past 2 years. He has turned up and been engaged.

Camilo Riano, from the livestream of a Board of Education meeting.

I don’t disagree with everything he has ever said. I personally strongly advocate for asking tough questions and involving parents in the education of our children. I may disagree with many of the comments he has made and actions he has taken, but he has every right to do that as a citizen, Westport resident and parent.

The real issue for me is that my local Republican Party has chosen to be associated with those views, and has voted to nominate him as one of our 2 candidates.

Our Republican candidate has stood up in public BOE meetings and been active on social media denouncing board members and school administrators for enabling “groomers.” He has directly called out the WPS Superintendent and accused him of “grooming” children. For instance, at a BOE meeting last October 3 he said, “Mr. Scarice, as superintendent of our public schools when are you going to stop the child grooming of our children?”

This is crossing the line.

I think we should all stop and pause for one second. Let it sink in. Those are the words of one of the official local Republican Board of Education candidates.

It’s one thing to disagree with an equity study, not support DEI, or even support a book challenge. But the words above were said directly to, and directly about, our school administrators, central office and our superintendent.

I personally have had several disagreements in public with our superintendent. I’m pretty self-aware, and I’m sure I have irritated and frustrated our administration on multiple occasions. I passionately believe it’s our role as elected representatives to support, question and challenge our leaders to make our school system better. Local residents also should challenge us as BOE members. I certainly did before I got elected, when I had the microphone for 2 minutes.

However,  I would never accuse our administration or superintendent of anything like that. My Republican and Democrat colleagues on the board never have, and I’m confident they never would.

Secondly, Camilo has filed 2 complaints against the town of Westport related to student participation on the BOE, and challenging the composition of TEAM Westport. Do we really want to be nominating Republican candidates who are trying to take legal action against the town of Westport?

Over the past few weeks I have spoken with senior members of my local party, and been upfront about my concerns. I have also reached out multiple times directly to Camilo himself and explained my views. I have asked to speak with him either on the phone or in person, and consider retracting the “grooming” comments and apologizing to our school administrators and superintendent. He politely declined, stating, “I am really busy and do not see much value in getting together to discuss Mr. Scarice’s feelings.”

I think extreme attacks and accusations need to stop, whereever they come from. It’s not just from from the right. At the end of the last school year in a public BOE meeting a member of the public, and an active local Democrat (although not a candidate) referred to my Republican BOE colleague as a “Nazi.” Accusations and references to people as “Nazis,” “groomers,” “fascists,” “racists,” “Marxists” should have no place in our local politics. I hope we can leave all this behind.

Westport Board of Education members, with Westport Public Schools administrators and Long Lots School Building Committee representatives, last week. Robert Harrington is second from left, facing the camera.

Many people reading this may simply ask, “Robert, why do you stay in your party?” I am a Republican. I’m not going anywhere. I am going to stay and fight to try and change our party from within. I may well be unsuccessful. However, I feel it would be disingenuous to suddenly switch to being a Democrat. Even our local system of elections forces us to choose a party if we want to serve on the BOE, and our town charter limits any political party to a maximum of 4 of 7 members on the BOE. Running as an independent is simply not a reality.

The Republicans have not had a majority on the BOE in Westport for over 25 years. If both these candidates were to win, it would break this trend — and I might stand to gain personally. However, I would not want the Republicans to take control like this.

I really hope my party can find another way. I just can’t support them on this.

Board Of Ed Candidate To His Party: We Must Change

I have not posted anything about the Board of Education campaign — nor did I intend to. The race was uncontested (until the emergence of a write-in candidate), and the Republican and Democratic nominees are largely in agreement on issues like learning loss and infrastructure.

But at the end of Thursday’s mostly uncontroversial League of Women Voters’ forum, one candidate addressed an issue that has percolated both locally and nationally: Critical Race Theory.

In doing so, Robert Harrington broke with the Republican Party that had endorsed him. 

Addressing the anti-CRT signs that have appeared around town — and an anonymous website — he said:

Thank you to the other candidates — and fingers crossed, I hope to be working with all three of you after November 2nd election.

Hopefully tonight has shown it is not about about “Republican vs. Democrat” or “Red versus Blue” when it comes to  a local school board election.

But that is the system that Westport chooses. Political parties nominate candidates.

So as a Republican candidate for the Board of Education in Westport, I have a strong and direct message to my local Republican Party.

To be clear: This is not about my running mate, Dorie Hordon. I look forward to working with her.

But my party’s response to “Wake Up Westport CRT: signs is not okay with me.

Their response to the an anonymous website has not shown leadership throughout the party.

This goes beyond those behind this website, and the lawn signs. They have full right of free speech. There is no issue with that. But it is about how we respond to that message. My party’s response is not okay.

I fear in my local Republican Party I am paying  the price for speaking out. I suspect tonight it won’t get any better.

In terms of the local campaign, I have 4 points to make to my party:

Joint Facebook Page/Account: The Republican Party has  deleted all the content, and has not allowed me to put up any new content — not even highlighting an upcoming meeting about our failing school bus schedules. If you go to HordonHarrngton4BOE, you will see there is zero content there.

Campaign email:  The same here. As a candidate I have not be able to email voters or residents — not even a personal statement.

Message from my party: I’ve been asked or told to stop campaigning, shut up, sit down and cancel meetings.

Questions from residents: A resident asked me online (before the entire contents of the site were deleted) a series of legitimate questions on my views on the future of Trump, my response to January 6, and the way I dealt with “The Big Lie.” I answered all these questions, and was happy to do so. However, the Republican campaign, without my knowledge or approval, deleted all my answers.

This is not democratic. It’s not transparent — for a party that often talks about transparency. It’s not a good look for Westport.

Worst of all: It’s not a good look for local Republican Party. They are acting like the national Republican Party

For the sake of Westport and the local Republican Party: We must change.


I reached out to Republican Town Committee chair Joe Sledge for a response. He referred me to the “Westport Republicans” page on Facebook. and this post pinned at the top of the page:

At last night’s League of Women Voters debate, Robert Harrington commented on procedures that the Westport Republican Town Committee put in place with respect to campaign communications by candidates on campaign social media accounts.

Connecticut State law requires that campaign communications contain specific attribution language, and the WRTC has sought to assure that candidates comply with these rules. Understandably, Robert may not be fully familiar with these regulations. We commend Robert’s passion and willingness to express his perspective.

Democrats Claim They Can Party Too

On Monday night, I posted a story about the Westport Republicans’ recent party — an Oktoberfest, with a special appearance by Miss Connecticut.

Most people — including Board of Finance chair Avi Kaner — liked it. Predictably, one humor-impaired commenter wrote:

Another subtle political post about Republicans dripping with resentment and sarcasm. What a shock.

Dan, give it up. I love ya brother. But enough. Are all Westporters required to swing to the left? Is that part of being in 06880?


Now, the Democrats demand equal time.

The Democratic Women of Westport sponsor their own fundraiser this Friday (October 19, 7:30-10 p.m.). It’s at the same site: the Westport Woman’s Club.

Come watch State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg bartend on Friday.

Where the GOP had German oompah music, the Dems counter with the Mill River Band — a rock group called (supposedly) “The Official Band of the Levitt Pavilion.”

They’re having a tough time topping Miss Connecticut, though. All they can say is “our bartenders will be Jonathan Steinberg and Ted Hoffstatter, both candidates for state representatives.”

“06880” readers: click “Comments” to vote for which party throws the best party.