Simmons ousts Crouse in Stonington

Stonington — In the race for first selectman, the former Congressman defeated the championship winning tennis coach.

Former three-term 2nd District Congressman Rob Simmons, who is a Republican selectman, handily defeated Democratic incumbent George Crouse Tuesday in the race for first selectman. Simmons received 2,893 votes and Crouse got 2,093.

Simmons expects to be sworn in within the next two weeks.

The two men, who first served together on the police commission 30 years ago, entered the basement of Town Hall on Tuesday night together shortly after the polls closed. That’s when Crouse gave his concession speech after preliminary results gathered by the two parties showed he had been defeated. The two men then hugged.

"George has been a faithful custodian of the town’s business as we transitioned from the Haberek administration to the Simmons-Spellman administration but I don’t think he articulated the same vision for the town as we did," Simmons said. 

"I’m surprised I got clobbered, but life goes on," said Crouse. "I ran on what I had done and he ran on what wasn’t done. I don’t have any bad feelings. I picked up the pieces, solved some problems and built a foundation for the next administration." 

Unaffilated incumbent Selectman Mike Spellman, a Groton City police officer whose late father served 24 years as first selectman, and Democrat Kate Rotella were elected to the Board of Selectmen, with 2,857 and 2,162, respectively.

Residents also overwhelmingly approved a series of charter changes, most of which are aimed at ensuring that finance board elections are always contested. Another change establishes term limits for finance and school board members. The question was approved 3,158-948.

Crouse, a retired teacher who has coached girls' tennis at Stonington High School for many years, has served as first selectman since last December when Ed Haberek resigned. Crouse and Simmons, who were both serving on the Board of Selectmen at the time, agreed that Crouse would complete Haberek’s term and appointed Spellman, an unaffiliated voter to fill the vacancy on the board. 

During the campaign Crouse pointed out that since taking office the town passed a $69 million school renovation proejct, approved the proposed budget at the first referendum, approved an updated Plan of Conservation and Development and brought charter revisions to a vote.

Simmons pointed to his experience as state business advocate, suggested the town create a Public Works Commission, appoint an ombudsman or Ethics Commission to head off costly lawsuits and reimburse residents who lost their 5 percent flood insurance discount because of a town error.

Simmons said it was a vision that contained these ideas and others, such as filling the vacant director of planning position and making it easier to redevelop mill buildings, that appealed to voters.

Candidates ran uncontested in all the other races. Re-elected to the school board were Democrats Frank Todisco and Craig Esposito and Republican Deborah Downie. Republican Glenn Frishman and Democrat Michael Fauerbach were elected to the Board of Finance. Democrat Cynthia Ladwig was re-elected as town clerk, Democrat Paul Cravinho as treasurer, Republican Linda Camelio as tax collector and Republican David Harma for the Board of Assessment Appeals. All but Fauerbach are incumbents.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

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