Ron Ward thwarted in bid to return to Norwich's Democratic Town Committee

Norwich - Embattled Democrat Ron Ward narrowly failed to win re-election to the Democratic Town Committee after three rounds of balloting, including one round that ended in a tie, even though four seats remain vacant in his party precinct.

Ward angered town committee members last fall when he ran for City Council on the third-party Norwich for Change ticket, competing against endorsed Democrats and criticizing some candidates.

He became the center of controversy during the past month, since Democratic Registrar of Voters JoAnn Merolla-Martin scheduled a hearing in an attempt to expel Ward from the Democratic voter rolls. Party officials canceled the hearing after state party leaders advised that the state law allowing the expulsion was likely "unconstitutional and unenforceable."

But Ward sought to be re-elected to his seat on the town committee Thursday in the party district that covers the 46th state House of Representatives district. In the first secret-ballot round, Ward was the only one of 44 nominees not elected, even though there were four vacant seats remaining.

In the second ballot, with only Ward's name listed, the tally was 20-20, but party rules call for a majority of votes to be elected. Several supporters protested mildly when party officers called for a third vote.

"He didn't get beat," Sean Ryan said.

On the third ballot, Ward lost two votes, in a 22-18 tally against his nomination.

Ward said he will seek the nomination again in March, after the new town committee starts its two-year term.

"I've always been a Democrat," Ward said after the vote. "This is a process. I look forward to seeking a seat at the next available time in March. What we're learning here is that every vote counts."

The only other incumbent town committee members not re-elected were former Board of Education member Kelly Ann Graves and Robert "Red" McKeon.

The Democratic Town Committee is divided into three districts, each representing one of the state House seats that now cover Norwich - the 46th, 47th and the 139th, which expanded into Norwich with statewide legislative redistricting in December.

Town Committee Chairman Frank Manfredi said after the new committee is seated and officers are elected, the districts can have caucuses at any time to nominate registered Democrats to fill vacancies.

The small 47th district has only seven representatives on the town committee and filled all slots Thursday. The 139th elected 17 members, but still has 10 vacant seats. The 46th district elected 43 members and has four vacancies.

c.bessette@theday.com

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