Preston Republican first selectman primary going forward

Preston — The Sept. 10 primary to determine the Republican nominee for first selectman will go forward, as a complaint filed challenging the petition that forced the primary will not be resolved prior to the vote.

Gregory S. Moran Sr. filed a petition with 80 signatures of registered Preston Republicans to force the Sept. 10 primary after a party caucus endorsed Edward Gauthier in a close 15-12 vote over Moran. But Republican Town Committee Chairman Norman Gauthier — Edward Gauthier’s father — filed a complaint with the state Elections Enforcement Commission to challenge the petition, saying Moran failed to follow state election statutes in collecting the signatures.

Norman Gauthier said Moran signed and dated the petition form certifying that the signatures were original and valid prior to collecting signatures.

Republican Registrar Desiree Majcher said Tuesday she certified that the petition signatures were valid and was advised by state election officials that the primary could go forward. Town Clerk Hattie Wucik said absentee ballots needed to be printed by Tuesday and are now available to registered Republicans who will not be able to vote in person on Sept. 10.

The primary winner will face endorsed Democrat Sandra Allyn-Gauthier — no relation to Edward Gauthier — in the general election Nov. 5.

Josh Foley, spokesman for the state Elections Enforcement Commission, said Tuesday that Norman Gauthier’s complaint, filed on Aug. 13, was not on the commission’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. The next meeting will be Sept. 4, but it is not clear whether the complaint will be on that agenda.

Foley said even if the commission takes up the complaint on Sept. 4, the only decision likely that day would be to determine whether “the complaint alleges facts that if proven true would constitute a violation of election law.” If yes, Foley said, the complaint would be docketed for investigation.

But the commission would not have the authority to stop the Sept. 10 primary or disqualify a candidate.

“Our commission doesn’t have the power to unseat elected officials,” Foley said. “We are not involved in preventing candidates from running for office or unseating candidates. We can fine people or issue cease and desist orders, but we cannot unilaterally stop candidates from running.”

Norman Gauthier said Tuesday he is disappointed that no decision on his complaint will be made prior to the scheduled primary. He drove to Hartford on Aug. 13 to hand-deliver the complaint and to request that the commission expedite its review.

“I’m disappointed,” Gauthier said. “I would much rather have had a decision one way or the other.”

With the primary on, the Preston registrars' office has scheduled office hours from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday for voters interested in changing from unaffiliated to a specific party or for new voters to register. Voters already registered in one party cannot switch to another party for the Sept. 10 primary, because there is a 90-day waiting period for the switch to take effect.

Registrars also will set the optical machines for the primary at 1 p.m. Thursday in the lower level at the Preston Town Hall, 389 Route 2, Preston. The machine setting is open for observation.

c.bessette@theday.com

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