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Preka withdraws candidacy for Groton Town Council

Groton — David Preka has withdrawn his candidacy for Town Council in Tuesday's election.

"It is with heartfelt regret and careful consideration that I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration in the upcoming election of a new Groton Town Council," Preka, an independent candidate endorsed by Republicans, wrote in his notice submitted Thursday to the Town Clerk.

Groton Republican Registrar of Voters Kristen Venditti said the town is required to reprint the ballots, but since there is not enough time to do so, the town will black out his name on each ballot.

A complaint received by the State Elections Enforcement Commission last week alleged that Preka lives at 16 Susan Terrace in Waterford, though his election form lists 61 W. Main St. in Mystic as his residence and he is registered to vote at that address.

Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher has said that after her office received the complaint, from someone who wanted to be anonymous, she followed state statutes and referred the complaint to the SEEC. The town tax assessor and representatives from Chelsea Groton Bank, which owns the property at 61 W. Main St. in Mystic, where Preka's business, Advanced Group, is based, inspected the property. Moukawsher wrote in the letter to the SEEC that their "findings prove that there are no living quarters."

Groton's charter requires each candidate to be a resident of the town at the time of the election. 

Groton Republican Town Committee Chairman Ken Richards said by phone Thursday that it was his understanding that Preka had his residence at his business and also has been for months in the process of obtaining another residence in Groton, but Richards said Preka has received so much negativity that he decided to withdraw.

"I’ve come to realize this is causing a negative impact to my business, the employees that rely on me and my beloved family [and] is not something I could justify when my only goal was to further serve my community," Preka wrote in a note to the Groton Republican Town Committee, which provided it to The Day. "While it would have been an honor for this recent immigrant to experience the dream of elected office, the price has already been too high."

Preka said that, as in the past, he will continue to serve his community and adopted country as an entrepreneur and community advocate. "I hope in the years ahead to seek official office, so that my children can witness the opportunities available to them all," he said.

He noted the town charter's requirement that "no person shall be eligible for election to any office in the town government who is not at the time of the election a resident elector of said Town, and any person ceasing to be a resident or elector of said Town shall thereupon cease to hold elected office in Town."

In an emailed statement, Richards called it "appalling that Democrats would bully and intimidate a great candidate that truly represents the American dream" and alleged they used town resources to pursue "false claims against him."

"This is exactly why more small business owners do not run for office," Richards wrote. "The rest of the Republican ticket will keep working hard to earn support from Groton voters this coming Tuesday so we can restore much needed balance to the Town Council.”

“This situation has truly shown local Democrats will stop at nothing to maintain one-party power in Town," he added. "In contrast, Republicans have put forward a diverse slate that is committed to putting People over Politics and ending the kind of hyper-partisanship that has defined the current council’s tenure.”

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Conrad Heede said by email that: “Unfortunately, these kinds of responses by Republicans have become all too common. They flout the law, allege conspiracy theories and slander Democrats, and then when they get caught, rather than take responsibility for their actions they attack and accuse Democrats of being 'hyper-partisan.' Richards and the Groton RTC should be apologizing to voters for intentionally misleading them and to David Preka, who is new to politics, for failing him."

Moukawsher, who has said she follows the prescribed state statutes and town charter, said Thursday that: "I maintain an office with integrity and will continue to assist all citizens and encourage anyone interested to volunteer for our government."

k.drelich@theday.com 

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