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Trumpism surfaces in Connecticut municipal races

It is disturbing to me that some echoes of the Trump GOP juggernaut in Washington have started dribbling down into this year's municipal races in Connecticut.

You certainly can't mistake the Trump inspiration for the response this week to my questions to the Republican candidate for mayor of Montville, Thomas McNally, about posts on his Facebook page.

"This is a witch hunt," McNally complained to me in an email about the questions. The only way he could have been more Trumpian would have been to tweet it with a lot of exclamation points.

McNally was responding to complaints that some of his Facebook posts have racist connotations. "I don't have a racist bone in my body," McNally wrote to me, using the exact same words the president did in July.

Another Trumpian moment this election season occurred with Groton Republicans, who immediately blamed Democrats when one of their candidates for Town Council, David Preka, was found to be claiming as his town residency an office building that the town tax assessor says doesn't have living accommodations.

"I feel this issue was a partisan attack," said a Trumpian-like Preka, in his initial response to The Day. He might as well have added: Fake news!!

Turns out he apparently doesn't live in Groton and seemed to admit as much in withdrawing from the race this week. He has been using that building without living quarters as his voting address since 2012.

Preka, from the outset of the news coverage, had Trumpian backing from the local GOP establishment, which also attacked Democrats because their candidate was accused of violating election law.

Republican Town Chairman Ken Richards issued a statement after news broke of the claim of Preka's nonresidency, attacking what he called a "glaringly political objective to undermine the endorsed candidate of another party."

Richards' statement about the matter was full of Trumpian umbrage and attacks, as if Democrats, or anyone else for that matter, do not have the right to question the candidacy of someone who doesn't even live in the town.

This would be almost funny if it weren't so troubling.

Another Trumpian moment I experienced this campaign season was in discussing with Republican candidate for Stonington first selectman, John Prue, the status of the town's Climate Task Force.

Prue told me, with great authority, that the town's lawyer has written a legal opinion saying the task force must be disbanded. In fact, when he told me this, I had just finished reading the short and unmistakably clear opinion, which says that the task force can't be permanent but can endlessly continue its work as long as it is assigned new tasks.

This one struck me as a lie of omission and not quite as direct as most Trumpian lies.

Prue's opponent, Danielle Chesebrough, has promised to keep assigning tasks to the task force.

I must admit I also see some troubling Trumpish echoes in the reelection efforts of Democratic Mayor Michael Passero, who made a lousy deal for New London, taking a piddling share of revenue from the nontaxed, state-owned pier, with the governor and the swampish Democratic denizens of the Connecticut Port Authority, and then tried to disavow it on the campaign trail.

It reminded me of Trump giving tax breaks to his rich friends then claiming they provide middle-class relief.

Passero expressed great Trumpian umbrage in his first campaign for mayor about what he called his predecessor's cronyism. Then soon after his election, campaign leaders were getting city-funded paychecks.

One of those Passero cronies sat in front of me at The Day's mayoral debate in New London and loudly booed Green Party candidate Frida Berrigan, who has tried to bring civility and inclusiveness to city politics.

The audience had been asked not to applaud their own candidate, never mind rudely and loudly insulting the others.

Those boos, to me, showed a shocking lack of civility in this dark turn in our politics, led by a president who has raised insult and attack into an art form.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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