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Groton's Democratic Chairman Conrad Heede needs to resign

Groton Town Councilor Portia Bordelon scored a clamorous, bell-ringing win on Tuesday, impressively capturing almost 200 more votes than the next highest vote-getter in the Democratic primary for Town Council.

With 970 votes, she got a whopping 363 more votes than Democratic Party Chairman Conrad Heede, who had presided over the party's attempt to elbow the outspoken Bordelon off the council. As the lowest vote-getter, Heede, who also is an incumbent councilor, lost a place on the party's ballot line for the fall election.

Bordelon forced the primary with a petition drive after the party denied her what should have been the usual routine endorsement for incumbents seeking reelection.

Party leaders tried to shut her up. Democratic primary voters instead handed her a megaphone. You rarely see such delicious justice delivered in a simple primary.

The two incumbent councilors who scored last place in voting within the party town committee, as it considered nominations for the council slots, were instead the top vote-getters in Tuesday's primary, with all members of the party able to participate.

Bordelon didn't get the party nomination for one of the nine council endorsements because she finished 10th in the town committee race for nominations. Councilor Aundré Bumgardner, who finished ninth, or last in the party nominating process, placed second Tuesday in the general party primary, behind Bordelon, with 773 votes.

Clearly the party leadership is out of touch with its rank-and-file voters.

Heede should resign promptly.

The vice chairwoman, Natalie Billing, should resign, too.

She complained to a reporter after Bordelon's crushing primary win over the party's endorsed candidates this week that Bordelon's voters "bought what I call the false narrative" about Bordelon's opposition to the Mystic Oral School project.

Wow. Talk about not listening to the loud and clear message from voters. Instead, she chooses to criticize the candidate leading her party's charge into the fall election and all the people who voted for her "false narrative."

She should have said congratulations Portia on your impressive campaigning and then shut up.

Billing went on, in her election recap, to rehash the party's steadfast resolve to abide by town lawyers' suggestion to stay mum about the unqualified oral school developer with a criminal history.

Who cares if the lawyers say not to talk about it, when residents are clamoring for answers? Do the lawyers run the town? Everyone learned, too late in the game, that a developer chosen by the town pleaded guilty to bribing public officials, and elected officials are not supposed to say anything?

That's ridiculous. Heede's team wanted to shut down discourse and hide behind the lawyers.

If the town is in legal jeopardy over the oral school debacle, it is because the lawyers created a development agreement that includes language with councilors specifically promising to change the oral school zoning to suit the proposed development, which they can't.

Voters have been desperate to hear their elected leaders stand up and demand answers from the developer, and after Bordelon did so, they rewarded her.

It is fitting that Heede, who sat on the committee that chose the unqualified developer, a choice that has put his party in such peril, ended up as the big loser on Tuesday.

Heede also has sat idly by while the town continues a cover-up, refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests from the news media and neighbors. Instead of rallying the councilors from his party to hold town staff responsible for this mess, he voted to extend the town manager's contract, a reward.

His council also imposed harsh new limits on the public participating at council meetings and the ability of councilors to participate in discussions.

I don't mean to diminish the hard work that Bordelon put in to get back on the ballot, nor the genuine outrage by many Democratic voters in town about the way she was treated.

But an enormous factor in Tuesday's primary was anger about the way Heede and his council ignored the wishes of a significant region of the town and went ahead and tried anyway to foist an overwrought, ill-conceived and unsustainable project in their neighborhoods.

Town Republicans are going to try to ride that cresting wave of discontent this fall.

Democrats need to clean house at party headquarters and finally do some soul searching and show some contrition.

That can start when the chairman and vice chairman finally listen to voters, resign and put party ahead of personal interests.

Or do they want to take the whole party down with them in November?

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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