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    Saturday, May 25, 2024

    Get out to vote — and stop fixating on Trump

    This Tuesday is Election Day, and in most Connecticut cities and towns the odd year means local elections — for mayor, city and town council, selectman, board of education and, in some cases, other municipal boards and commissions.

    In the weeks, even months, leading up to these local elections, some local Democrats and The Day itself among other media have worked hard to draw a link between local candidates and — here's that name again — Donald Trump.

    Adding to the Democrats' arsenal and GOP woes has been the recent circular GOP firing squad in the U.S. House of Representatives that mindlessly ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy and, after three painful weeks, finally replaced him in ham-handed fashion with Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I voted twice for Trump, but he lost me and many other Republicans on Jan. 6 when he did nothing to tame the riot at the U.S. Capitol that he had incited earlier that day with his false and oft-repeated claims that the election was stolen from him. The rejection of every single one of his numerous complaints and court appeals in states all over the country reaffirmed his defeat.

    Hopefully, one of the other Republican candidates for president will overtake Trump between now and next year so someone — anyone — else will head the GOP ticket in 2024. A third Trump candidacy, after his 2020 loss and the defeat of many of those he endorsed nationally in 2022, would be bad for the country and a catastrophe for the Republican Party.

    In the meantime, though, everyone should get out to vote Tuesday — if they haven't already — in the municipal elections. The candidates on this year's ballots are the people who will put together our city and town budgets, set our local property tax rates, oversee our schools, municipal hiring, our police, fire and public works departments. They're the ones we can hold accountable for how well or poorly our local governments are functioning.

    However, the siren calls for them to stand and scream their denunciations of Trump from the highest rooftops ought to be ignored or, at the very least, taken lightly. Regardless of whether they take the superficial bait and call Trump a fascist, a Nazi, a misogynist, a criminal, an insurrectionist, an egomaniac, or even just a really bad guy, they're better evaluated by how they'll perform in local office.

    In our democracy, it's anyone's right to vote for or against any candidate for any reason, including party affiliation and, yes, if you want, whether they support Trump. However, you'll likely wind up with better local government if you do some real research on the candidates. Do they have experience and/or expertise that will bring something positive to local government? Have they held elective office previously, and if so, how did they do? Are they accessible, articulate, level-headed, even-tempered, open-minded and transparent? Can they work across party lines? Do their priorities and positions on local issues such as taxes, development, law enforcement, curriculum, hiring, social services, infrastructure, etc., align with your own? Reading up on the candidates and attending local forums is a good way to find out.

    But this obsession with Trump — good grief! He's not on the ballot for mayor or first selectman, city/town council or school board. Even if he was, he couldn't get elected in most local communities. Then there's current President Joe Biden, an old, cognitively challenged career politician harnessed with historically low approval ratings. Most surveyed Democrats would rather have someone else at the top of their ticket next year. But is anyone demanding that Democratic candidates disassociate themselves from Biden or asking if their party should find someone else to run for president? No.

    Some people are obsessed with Trump. When The Day published a story last week about retired East Lyme First Selectman and state Sen. Paul Formica opening a new restaurant with his family on Niantic's Main Street, one woman used the reader comment section to link Formica to Trump because he gently disagreed with a town zoning policy. If you know Formica, a respected moderate during his time in the Senate with a history of local community service, he is about as different from Trump as anyone you'll find in either party. Geez, dear reader, take a sedative and get a life. (She is certain to weigh in on this column early and often.)

    Regardless of party affiliation, the candidates who have stepped forward, who will lend their time and expertise to our communities deserve voters' careful consideration. They're the ones who will spend time away from family, friends and favorite pastimes, most receiving little or no pay for their work. Beyond just the time they will give, their sacrifices are even more laudable, given the toxicity in politics today, made even worse by social media. It is not for the faint of heart.

    These candidates are our neighbors, professional colleagues, people we meet at church, PTA meetings, Little League games, restaurants and grocery stores.

    When considering who to support in a local election year like this one, who thinks of Trump, or, for that matter, Biden? Instead, most will hopefully focus on people from our communities, whether it's Rob Brule, who is running unopposed for re-election as Waterford's first selectman, or John Russell, waging an uphill battle for city council in heavily Democratic New London. Those are the types who come to mind when I think of Republicans.

    Danielle Steward-Gelinas and Kate MacKenzie are among those from the GOP seeking seats on Waterford's Representative Town Meeting, following their late fathers, former First Selectmen Dan Steward and Hugh MacKenzie, into politics.

    At age 74, it would be easier for Ken Keeley to relax in retirement and spend more time following his beloved grandsons on the baseball diamond. Instead, unhappy with the direction of the city in which he's spent his life, he petitioned to get on the GOP slate for Norwich City Council, for which he's running on a platform of accountability and controlled municipal spending.

    There are many more good Republicans running for local office on Tuesday; Democrats, third-party and unaffiliated candidates, too. Most are running for the right reason: to make their community a better place to live, work, play, raise a family and get a good education.

    You can ask the candidates how they feel about Trump if you want. But wouldn't you rather know if they'll be able to control municipal spending, hire qualified people, get our kids to read at appropriate grade level, fix the local roads and get the garbage picked up on time?

    Yes, so would I.

    Bill Stanley, a former reporter at The Day, is a retired vice president of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

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