Stonington GOP recommends former congressman Simmons to fill selectman vacancy

Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, seen in a 2010 file photo, says he is confident he will be picked as a selectman.
Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, seen in a 2010 file photo, says he is confident he will be picked as a selectman. Sean D. Elliot/The Day

Stonington — Stonington Republicans are recommending that former three-term congressman Rob Simmons fill a vacancy on the town’s Board of Selectmen when a seat on the three-person panel opens next month.

The town’s Republican Town Committee voted unanimously Thursday night to forward the name of Simmons to the selectmen as its choice to fill the seat of two-term Selectwoman Glee McAnanly, who has said she will step down Sept. 15 because she is taking a job in Memphis, Tenn.

From the date of McAnanly’s departure, First Selectman Ed Haberek and Selectman George Crouse, both Democrats, have 30 days to name a replacement. They do not have to abide by the GOP’s wishes, but because of minority representation requirements they do have to name a Republican.

Simmons, 71, said he is confident the Democrats will appoint him to the seat.

“I know they are free to act independently, but I think the Stonington Republican Town Committee is certainly qualified to make a decision on behalf of all the Republicans in Stonington, and the fact that it was unanimous suggests it is a good recommendation and I would hope the Board of Selectmen would accept it,” he said.

If he gets the nod, Simmons will serve out McAnanly’s term, which runs through 2015. There is already speculation that Simmons, who served three terms in Congress representing the 2nd Congressional District and a decade prior to that in Connecticut’s General Assembly, will run for first selectman next year.

“I’ve always ascribed to the idea that all politics is local, and when I first got involved in politics, it was in my hometown of Stonington,” said Simmons. “... I still live in Stonington and I still care about it.”

“I am pleased that Rob Simmons accepted the nomination of our committee to replace Glee McAnanly, and I know he will do a great job because of his experience as a public servant, politician and political science teacher,” said Republican Town Chairman Dudley Wheeler.

A retired Army colonel, Simmons has chaired the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank in East Hartford, for the past several years.

He said he began his political career in 1985 when he unsuccessfully ran on the ticket with former First Selectman Peter Dibble. Dibble won but Simmons garnered fewer votes than the two Democrats they were competing with.

He later served stints as chairman of the town’s Board of Police Commissioners and as Stonington’s Republican Town Committee chairman before winning a special election in 1991 to fill the seat of a state representative who died while in office.

He held that job until he was elected to Congress in 2000, serving from 2001 to 2007, when he was defeated by now incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who beat him by fewer than 100 votes in the sprawling 2nd Congressional District.

Simmons has remained active since then, working as the state’s business advocate until the position was eliminated, and making a run for his party’s nomination for U.S. Senate.

McAnanly lost the first selectman’s post to Haberek by 45 votes last fall.

If for any reason Haberek and Crouse fail to name a replacement within 30 days of McAnanly’s departure, Town Clerk Cynthia Ladwig said state statute stipulates that elected Republicans in town government who are not on panels with staggered terms then have 60 days to fill the post. That would include the tax collector, Republican registrar and some constables. School and finance board members would not be eligible since they serve staggered terms.

a.baldelli@theday.com

Twitter: @TheDay_Ann 

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