Rob Simmons: Former congressman, selectman candidate, purveyor of corn

I took a double take driving out North Main Street in Stonington recently, when I saw a familiar figure emerging from a corn patch in a field beyond the stone wall.

Sure enough, there was Rob Simmons, our former congressman from the Second Congressional District and now a candidate for first selectman in Stonington, walking from the cornfield in a grimy T-shirt, looking all the world like a farmer.

He had enough dirt on his hands, too, I'd say, to qualify as more working than gentleman farmer.

Naturally, I pulled over.

And I ended up with what many of his constituents have been getting lately with a stop at Simmons' farm stand: a little political chit-chat and an armful of corn, at 50 cents an ear.

(The corn is a big money maker, Simmons explained. Eggplant is a slower seller and last year helped stock some local soup kitchens as farm leftovers.)

As I write this, I still have not tasted the corn. But I trust it is as tasty as some of the political morsels Simmons doled out, roadside, on a hot August morning.

Back when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate, for instance, for the seat Democrat Richard Blumenthal eventually won, Simmons said Linda McMahon bought the Republican nomination, literally.

Delegates at that nominating convention came up to him, Simmons said this week, fieldside, and reported they had been offered $1,000 to support McMahon, and could he match it.

Not on your life, Simmons said he told them. All you'll get from me, he said, is a candidate who can beat Blumenthal in the general election.

Of course we know how all that turned out. 

Simmons also complained about another millionaire, Tom Foley of Greenwich, who twice enticed Connecticut Republicans to support him, despite any lack of election experience, for two unsuccessful runs at governor.

As for his next race, for Stonington first selectman, Simmons said he will be ready to get back into electioneering mode full time, once schools are back in session and everyone is paying more attention. Not that he isn't getting some politicking in over the bins of corn.

Simmons, who is a spry and busy 72, said he might have settled more comfortably into political retirement — he says he'd like to go back and spend more time in Vietnam, where he served in the war — but he feels driven to step in and fix what he describes as a broken government in his hometown.

What we need, he said, is an Army colonel (retired) like himself to clean up the mess left by the former Democratic selectman who manically sexted his way through work days, while town managers ran wild.

He cites the latest Town Hall scandal in which an employee filed a harassment charge against a selectman who merely passed along some constituent complaints about chemicals being used on playing fields.

Simmons said he is part of a bipartisan coalition of leaders who are determined to take back Town Hall before it is too late.

But that will be after the corn season has run its course.

The fields Simmons tends are a short distance down North Main Street from his home. It is land that came through the family of his wife, Heidi. She is the ninth generation to tend it.

Indeed, Mr. and Mrs. Simmons were both hard at work when I found them. They also pay a few helpers and have some volunteers.

Some of the food is sold to local restaurants, including two run by Simmons' son-in-law, who also lives on the farm property.

Simmons, after harvesting in the morning, makes a round of restaurant deliveries. Some of the harvest goes into the stand on the side of the road, where there is an honor box.

And, if you time it right, you can buy directly from the candidate farmer.

It's not a bad idea, Simmons adds, to look to your local politician for corn.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

Twitter: @DavidCollinsct


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