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Hedrick announces write-in candidacy for May 3 Groton City general election

Groton — City Mayor Keith Hedrick on Friday announced his write-in candidacy for the May 3 general election, setting off a rematch between him and Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner, who recently won the Democratic mayoral primary by five votes.

The vote was 335-330 in the March 8 primary between Hedrick, the city's mayor since 2017 and Bumgardner, a former state representative.

Hedrick said in a news release that he is making the announcement after "a great deal of thought and deliberation, and after receiving an overwhelming amount of support and requests from the voters of our diverse community."

"My decision to initiate a write-in candidacy was based upon many factors, one of which is the need to provide ALL voters of the City of Groton, regardless of their political affiliation, gender, race, or socio-economic background, the opportunity to have a choice," he wrote.

Hedrick said by phone Friday that on Thursday he dropped off the required forms to the city clerk, who stamped them in, and he sent a registered letter notifying the state of his write-in candidacy. He said while he is not the party nominee, he remains a Democrat and his campaign is a grassroots effort of city residents, including Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated people who encouraged him to run.

He noted in the news release that there was a five-vote margin in the primary, with a roughly 36% turnout among registered Democrats. He said the city's more than 2,450 unaffiliated voters were not able to vote due to the state's election laws, and the city's nearly 900 registered Republicans also didn't have a say. The city Republicans had cited a hostile environment toward Republicans and did not endorse a slate of candidates.

"This adds up to approximately 87% of the voters registered in the City being prevented from engaging in the election process," he said. "My intent is to allow full participation and empower all of our diverse community to choose the direction of our great City for the next two years."

"The City of Groton has been my home for the past 24 years, and I have dedicated myself to helping make our community the best place to live, work, and play in Southeastern Connecticut," Hedrick, 61, added in the release. "I have served four years as a City representative on the Representative Town Meeting, eight years as a City Councilor, two years as Deputy Mayor and four years as your Mayor. I am proud to say that I love the City of Groton and respect and enjoy doing what is best for our community. For those who do not know my background, my lovely wife and I have been married for 30 years; I hold an undergraduate degree in Workforce Education and a Master's degree in Business Administration. I am a retired United States Naval Officer and have served in various managerial and leadership positions in the private sector."

Hedrick named continuing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic through testing and vaccination as a top priority. He also cited that the city is working to boost economic development in the city, on Thames Street and in the "Five Corners" area, taking on projects to protect its forests, water and coastline, has decreased the tax rate while continuing services, expanded community policing and workforce diversity and created a new Police and Community Together Committee.

Hedrick said he is asking people to fill in the bubble and write in "Keith Hedrick" for mayor in the "Write-In" section on their ballot.

Bumgardner said Friday that his "priority and focus is on transitioning in May to our new administration and a new era of progress for the City of Groton."

"Once I receive a negative (COVID-19) test, I also will continue to knock on doors to learn more about what our residents want from their government to help them in their daily lives," Bumgardner said. "In the weeks leading up to the election, I'm happy to have a discussion of the issues facing our city and our ideas for improving it with anyone who declares themselves a candidate. I have great optimism about Groton City's future, and I again thank those who have endorsed and supported my candidacy to lead it."

Bumgardner, 26, who also is a member of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission and last worked for the state treasurer, noted that Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, endorsed him this week.

"Residents throughout the city and elected officials throughout our town and our state have reached out to offer their help to me during this election and through this transition," he added. "Our support has grown exponentially since winning the primary election."

Bumgardner said he would welcome the opportunity to speak with Hedrick about the transition. He also said he would ask, now that Hedrick is moving forward with his write-in candidacy against the Democratic nominee chosen by the majority of voters in a primary, that Hedrick reassess serving in his role as chairman of the City of Groton Democratic Committee.

Hedrick said in response that he is the incumbent mayor, a Democrat and the committee chairman and Bumgardner being voted on by the electorate does not change that. He said he is not sure why Bumgardner is weighing in on issues involving the city committee because he's not a member.

Bumgardner also pointed out that unaffiliated voters had until the Friday before the primary to register as Democrats and be able to vote in the primary.

But Hedrick said his opponent is "blaming" unaffiliated voters for not switching to become Democrats for the reason they did not vote but there could be many reasons why people didn't change their affiliation to the Democratic Party.

Bumgardner said he met virtually with the Democratic slate of City Council candidates to discuss priorities for the city and issues confronting the community.

He also said the first phone call he received the day after the primary was from Gov. Ned Lamont and they discussed the American Rescue Plan funding for the town and Board of Education, and he looks forward to partnering with state and federal officials to ensure that city youth have the resources to benefit from expanded nutrition, athletic and recreational programs.

Additionally, Bumgardner said President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan includes investments in coastal resilience; the transportation network, including expanding rail; investment in electric vehicles and charging stations and broadband and it's critically important to have a mayor that leverages the relationships and partnerships that he has developed as a former state representative and current town councilor, as well as his prior work at the state treasurer's office, to ensure that the City of Groton can leverage these investments that will be made by the federal government in the years to come.

"I am so eager and excited to roll up my sleeves and let's get to work," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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