East Lyme Democratic chairman in trouble over endorsement

East Lyme - Democratic Town Committee Chairman Edward Morris could lose his leadership position because he has publicly endorsed Bill Satti using committee letterhead as the party's candidate for the 20th District state Senate seat instead of state Rep. Betsy Ritter of Waterford, the committee's endorsed candidate.

The town committee voted in June to endorse Ritter for the seat, which represents Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem and Waterford.

Morris, however, supports Satti, the New London Democratic Town Committee chairman. Satti will face Ritter in a Democratic primary next Tuesday that will determine who will run against Republican Paul Formica, the East Lyme first selectman.

Now, members of the town's Democratic executive committee - not including Morris - have called a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss his recent mailings that urge town Democrats to support Satti.

"The purpose of the meeting is to have a collegial and civil discussion of these recent events and to determine if any changes in our committee leadership is desired ..." wrote Jeff Langan, the town committee secretary, in an email to the committee on Saturday.

A letter dated July 24, from Morris states: "My purpose in writing to you today, as your local Democratic leader, is to inform you that I have endorsed Bill Satti of New London, and I ask you to join me in voting for him in the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, August 12th."

The letter, signed by Edward V. Morris, chairman of the East Lyme Democratic Town Committee, is on "East Lyme Democratic Town Committee" letterhead.

Morris said East Lyme has played a role in winning state Democratic seats and is at the center of the 20th District. He said he is an active Democratic Town Committee chairman and he supports Satti as the best candidate to win the 20th District seat for the Democrats.

"I backed up what I said: get out the vote," he said.

He said Democrats can support any candidate in a primary - a primary can be divisive for a party, he said - but many don't understand that.

Town Committee Vice Chairwoman Beth Hogan said the issue at stake is process, not Morris' opinions.

Following the letter, Hogan said she has received several calls from people asking if it is true that the DTC is backing Satti. She said the town committee had collectively endorsed Ritter, but the DTC letterhead could mislead people to believe it was the entire Democratic Town Committee who was supporting Satti.

"There was a feeling out there that people would construe it that Ed Morris is speaking for the entire Democratic Town Committee, which he is not," she said.

Morris said he created the stationery with the letterhead, which he uses for his correspondences.

In emails among DTC members, Hogan suggests sending another letter to rectify the situation: "It looks like a letter needs to be mailed to all Democrats in East Lyme to eliminate Ed's misleading and deceptive letter. This will cost money. Perhaps Ed will reimburse the town committee ... ."

Morris said he will boycott Wednesday's meeting because it violates the town committee's bylaws.

Morris said Hogan has threatened that he will be stripped of his chairmanship.

Hogan denied the claim and said she wants the meeting so people will have a chance to discuss the issue.

Morris said a second mailing also created an uproar. A two-sided flier sent last week and paid for by Satti for Senate 2014, has a photo of Morris and a statement from him: "I'm endorsing Bill Satti because he is the best Democrat to represent East Lyme." The other side states "East Lyme Democrats support Bill Satti." It features a photo of Satti by an East Lyme sign and one of him next to Morris, as he announced his candidacy at the Niantic Town Green.

Satti responded on Monday: "I have several Democratic town leaders and the town chair that are in support of my candidacy," he said, mentioning Selectwoman Rose Ann Hardy and Selectman Rob Wilson. "All said and done, come August 12, we will all be on the same team."

k.drelich@theday.com

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