Waterford Green Party still small, but pushing ahead with growing ballot presence
Waterford — The Green Party here is still a friend-and-family affair.
The party, whose leaders say has the largest number of Green Party candidates on a municipal ballot in Connecticut this year, is growing, though. And despite a list of candidates that includes several family members and friends of the two co-chairs, they say they're confident that a third-party message is starting to appeal to those tired of the choice between Democrats and Republicans.
This year, the party endorsed registered Green Party members for four seats on the town's Representative Town Meeting, one on the Board of Finance, and two on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The party also cross-endorsed Democrat Deborah Rosselli-Kelly for the Board of Education, and Michael Buscetto for the Board of Assessment Appeals.
The Green Party-endorsed slate represents a close-knit group. Two of the nine nominees — Rosselli-Kelly and Board of Finance candidate Kevin Kelly — are party co-chair Joshua Kelly's parents, and Zoning Board of Appeals candidate Billy Gene Collins is the father of Baird Welch-Collins, the party's other co-chair.
Another two — Andrew Frascarelli, the RTM District 1 candidate, and alternate Zoning Board of Appeals candidate Darcy Van Ness — are fellow recent Waterford High School graduates who Joshua Kelly said he and Welch-Collins asked to run.
Welch-Collins is also running for one of the seats representing RTM District 2, Joshua Kelly is running for RTM District 3 and elementary school teacher Carl D'Amato is running for RTM District 4.
"A lot of it is personal connections," Joshua Kelly said last week.
But he sees a milestone in the party's ability to endorse candidates for all the seats on the ballot this year, and a big leap for a party that just won its first seat on a town board in 2015.
"I think this will be a signal to the community, and to the town, that we are a group that is capable of putting up a solid slate," he said.
The party, which released a platform on Saturday focused on the future of the Millstone Power Station, renewable energy sources for the town and funding for education, is miniscule compared to the Waterford Democratic and Republican parties, which have thousands of registered voters each.
Kelly estimated there are about 30 registered Green Party members in Waterford.
While frustration with the two-party status quo presents an opportunity for third parties, Kelly said, the enthusiasm for political involvement hasn't blossomed as much as he expected.
"(The town) has had some mixed feelings ... not only about the Green Party, but around running for office in general," he said. "We thought that people would want to come out against the Republican Party after the Trump win. We haven't had the swing we wanted to have."
Because of laws governing alternative parties' access to ballots in Connecticut, the candidates for two positions that the Green Party didn't run candidates for in 2015 were required to submit petitions for their candidacy to the Connecticut Secretary of State's office, which Kelly said he expects will be approved.
People are becoming more familiar with Waterford's Green Party, he said, even if Jill Stein's Green Party presidential primary left a bad taste in their mouths. And with Democratic cross-endorsements for Green candidates for the Zoning Board of Appeals and three RTM district seats (the Democrats did not endorse Welch-Collins), Kelly said voters will recognize the two parties are cooperating.
"They know that the Democrats aren't running a full slate," he said. "You can vote for a Democrat and a Green, and not necessarily be taking a vote away from a Democrat."
With four Green Party candidates for the 22-member RTM, Kelly said he has high hopes for a spot on that board, which takes the final vote each year on the town budget.
But adding any seat to the to the one elected town government seat filled by a Green — his own alternate spot on the Zoning Board of Appeals — will feel like progress, he said.
"Anyone's going to be a big win for the party," he said.