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Election Day 2019: Races without incumbents and controversial candidates

Election Day in southeastern Connecticut will usher in new administrations in several towns and serve as a referendum on two candidates involved in political controversies.

In New London, the Board of Education race was rocked by allegations against Democratic candidate Jason Catala, 45, who is running for his eighth term on the board. He was arrested in October on credit card fraud charges and is accused of opening 16 credit card accounts and accumulating $8,000 in debt, using a niece's personal information. City Democrats withdrew their support of Catala, but he has remained in the race.

Meanwhile, in Old Lyme, Democratic First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder is facing a challenge from a familiar opponent, Timothy Griswold, the current Republican town treasurer and former first selectman. It's their fifth time running against each other.

At first, it seemed Reemsnyder would run unopposed. But days after Gov. Ned Lamont pressured her to resign as chairwoman of the Connecticut Port Authority board following the news that the authority had paid her daughter $3,000 for six photographs, Griswold gathered enough signatures to make the ballot. He said he felt a "sense of duty" to democracy to run so Reemsnyder would have an opponent. Reemsnyder has denied legal wrongdoing but has acknowledged she should have spoken up and not allowed the port authority to buy photographs from her daughter.

Just last week, independent but Republican-endorsed Groton Town Council candidate David Preka withdrew his candidacy following a complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission that alleged he lives in Waterford.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Ken Richards said Democrats had used town resources to pursue "false claims" against Preka, an immigrant who "truly represents the American dream." The town charter states 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." Preka's name has been removed from the ballot.

Mayoral races

Incumbent New London Democratic Mayor Michael Passero is battling Republican Marty Olsen and Green Party candidate Frida Berrigan in a contest that features candidates from across the ideological spectrum.

Olsen has been critical of Passero's record on taxes, although Passero has said the idea that New London's taxes are too high has become a false narrative during his tenure. Olsen also criticized Passero for department heads residing outside the city and for the city's failed attempt to set up a new trash system. Passero and Berrigan have disagreed on the public works budget — in Berrigan's eyes, it's too low — as well as Electric Boat. As a pacifist, she would hope to "engage in a much deeper conversation with that company about what they make."

Montville's mayoral race makes for another familiar matchup: Democratic incumbent Ron McDaniel versus Republican Town Council Chairman Thomas McNally. McDaniel and McNally have had to work together to run the town since 2015, when McDaniel defeated McNally for mayor, but the two have a complicated history.

In 2012, McDaniel fired McNally from the Water Pollution Control Authority for his connection to a pair of workplace injuries. McNally filed a lawsuit against McDaniel and other parties on the grounds that his dismissal was politically charged. The saga ended in a settlement.

New faces

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon will resign after this term, meaning the town will have a new first selectman for the first time in 24 years. Republican Gregory S. Moran and Democrat Sandra L. Allyn-Gauthier are the two candidates looking to replace Congdon.

Allyn-Gauthier has spent more than two decades as a financial adviser at People's United Bank with experience in strategic planning and business administration. Moran is a lifetime member of the Poquetanuck Fire Department and has been active in the community for years. Congdon, a Republican, endorsed Allyn-Gauthier for the position.

In Stonington, Republican First Selectman Rob Simmons, has decided not to seek a third term.

His departure has allowed Republican Selectman John Prue and Democratic-endorsed but unaffiliated candidate Danielle Chesebrough to run for the office. Chesebrough serves on the Board of Finance and the Economic Development Commission. She is a senior analyst of investor relations for the United Nations' Division of Corporate Sustainability and Responsible Development. Prue owns Mystic Group LLC, which specializes in advertising and trade show services. He has served on land-use commissions and on the committee that worked to update Stonington's Plan of Conservation and Development.

Waterford's first selectman, Republican Daniel Steward, is leaving office after 14 years. Republican Rob Brule is facing Democrat Beth Sabilia in the race.

Brule is a selectman and Sabilia is a member of the Representative Town Meeting. In her professional life, Sabilia has been a lawyer and is a former mayor of New London. Brule has been the director of operations and quality assurance for ABI Resources, a human service company specializing in community-based acquired brain injury rehabilitation. He also served as chief operating officer at Project Genesis, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Read the rest of The Day's election coverage here.

s.spinella@theday.com

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a correction of the name of Montville mayoral candidate Thomas McNally.

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