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Bringing the candidates to the people

After being elected to 12 straight terms and serving 24 years, Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon decided not to seek re-election last November. Though a Republican and a fiscal conservative, Congdon had, in the leadup to the election, begun to conclude that the Democrat was the better candidate to succeed him.

The debate for first selectman, sponsored by The Day, convinced him that was the case.

In endorsing Democrat Sandra Allyn-Gauthier, including in a letter to the editor, Congdon would repeatedly urge voters to watch the Oct. 17 debate, available on Not that they needed much persuading. On debate night 200 people had packed the auditorium of the local middle school. Online the debate would attract 1,068 views, impressive for a town of 4,600 people.

Seeing was believing and on Election Day voters in the fiscally conservative town voted to make Allyn-Gauthier their new leader, 1,017-516.

The Day brings a sense of duty to the task of giving our readers the information they need to make an informed vote. And those readers are invested in the process, using email and a form available on to supply questions for the debates.

In the recent municipal election, The Day sponsored debates for the offices of mayor or first selectman in the towns of East Lyme, Stonington, Montville, Waterford and New London, as well as Preston. While the selectmen’s debate in Old Lyme was sponsored by another group, we recorded it as a public service and offered it on, along with all the debates.

Online the debates attracted 5,059 views, complementing a collective live audience of about 1,000. Assisting the Day was the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut.

The challenges are significant, including finding locations and dates the candidates can agree on and surmounting technical barriers to provide a quality production for our online audience.

In Stonington a crowd packed a community center hall. In Waterford they nearly filled the high school auditorium. Everywhere attendees thanked us for the opportunity.

As moderator for the events, I got the opportunity to question the candidates about local issues having to do with development, tax policy, public safety, education, the challenges presented by climate change, and numerous town-specific issues.

Every debate was reported on by our staff of local reporters. Readers also benefitted from stories profiling the candidates. And on election night, we were the place to go for results.

The Day was proud to shine a bright light on grassroots democracy.

By the Numbers

Where we set up our cameras to record municipal debates

Mayor of New London: C.B. Jennings International Magnet School

Board of Selectmen Stonington: the Stonington Community Center

Mayor of Montville: Montville High School

First Selectman of Preston: Preston Plains School

First Selectman of Waterford: Waterford High School

First Selectman of East Lyme: East Lyme High School

Board of Selectmen Old Lyme: Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School

Who was watching

Collective online views for the debates: 5,059

Estimated live audience: 1,000

Who Participated

Candidates: 18

Affiliations: 8 Republicans, 8 Democrats, 1 Green, 1 unaffiliated


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